Roy Hodgson heaped praise on Wilfried Zaha who battled back from a groin injury to play a match-winning role against Huddersfield Town.
The Palace star missed the 2-0 defeat to Southampton a fortnight ago but battled back to ensure he was available to take on the Terriers, and ended up netting a superb solo strike to end Palace’s three-game losing league run.
Hodgson admitted it was a slight gamble to play his star man for 90 minutes, but was delighted his decision was vindicated. Speaking in his post-match press conference, the Palace boss discussed a number of topics, including:
Zaha: “It was a wonderful goal and he was lively throughout. He deserved enormous credit because the groin injury could have kept him out for a lot longer and would have do so for many a player, but he’s anxious to get back out on the field that the doctors and physios can’t keep him back.
“I was concerned throughout the game. Had we had the margin of the second goal, and we were close on a few occasions, I would have replaced him. But at 1-0 with Huddersfield pressing for the equaliser, I didn’t want to take him off the field because if we did get the ball free after any of those situations, he was the one who looked like he was going to break away and score a second goal.”
Zaha’s response to booking: “He’s getting better and better at that. He’s got to come to terms with that he’s the type of player that is so good at running with the ball, and we see it with Manchester City and Liverpool players who are quick and good at running with the ball and get fouled.
“They’ve have to learn to accept that this will happen and that when you’re playing away from home, the opposing team never sees a foul. The opposing public, every time they see a player get knocked over even if it is the most obvious foul in the world, they see that the guy is making it up. Unfortunately, Wilf has a strong sense of justice and doesn’t think that people should treat him that unfairly, but he’s learning quickly.”
Big win? “For us it was a very important victory against a team that are notoriously hard to beat, both home and away, and it was extra important to us on this occasion because the last time we played against Southampton we really didn’t do ourselves justice. We were nowhere near organised and aggressive in our play as we were today, so it was nice to see us get back to that way of playing, which is something that we’re going to need to do in the next 33 games.
“Let’s make no bones about it, this is a very tough place to come. The support is good, the team is organised, they’ve got some big, strong players and they don’t give up. They put plenty of balls into your penalty area and ask lots of questions of you, so it won’t just be us that go away with a victory saying it was hard-fought but very welcome.”
Return of James Tomkins: “If we’re going to have the season we would like to have, you need quality players and when they’re not playing you miss them.
“I thought today we were fortunate with those two [Tomkins and Zaha] and to also play Jordan Ayew at centre-forward and bring Cheikhou Kouyaté into the team. That served us well today and their work-rate, aggressive and determination meant we were able to control large swathes of the game and keep the ball out of our box, at least for long periods.”
Reaction from Southampton game: “I wasn’t just looking for it, so were the players. It’s not a question these days when you work with players for a long period of time and everyone is singing off the same hymn sheet. You don’t have to go in and tell the players ‘you’ve got to show a reaction today’ or ‘you’ve got to do better than this’. We’ve got to make sure that the principles that we work hard to every day are visible on the pitch every time we go out there.
“It’s not a difficult conversation to have they were devastated that their performance against Southampton was way below what they’re capable of, so it was nice today to get back to the position we were in against Fulham, Liverpool and the first half against Watford, and it got us a very important victory.”
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