Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson was extremely satisfied with his squad’s performance in the Uhrencup penalty shoot-out victory over FC Luzern in the picturesque surroundings of Biel.
The match ended 1-1 after 90 minutes following Max Meyer’s chipped cross to the head of Christian Benteke in the opening minute was cancelled out by Pascal Schurpf’s sixth minute reply. The win was eventually secured thanks to a Wayne Hennessey save at full stretch in sudden death, as Palace converted six consecutive penalties in emphatic fashion.
Hodgson used twenty players during the match, with only Hennessey and Sam Woods playing the entirety, and was impressed by the level of the team’s performance just ten days into pre-season.
Speaking post-match to Palace TV, he said: “It was a pleasing result, and a pleasing performance as well. We had to use so many players – so many who haven’t had much experience with the first team at all, certainly not at match level, and not even that much training with us.
“It was great that so early in pre-season we could put in such a good performance. I thought we were clearly the better side throughout the game and could have quite easily won it in the 90 minutes, but it’s exciting when it goes to penalties. Certainly, it was one of the best exhibitions of penalty shoot outs I’ve seen, from both teams. It’s nice to win it that way.
“It would have been nice to have won it in normal time, because we had two or three really good chances. There were some really excellent attacking movements – both in the first and second half, it would have been nice if one of those would have gone in, because that would have crowned some good attacking play.”
FC Luzern, who finished 5th in the Swiss Super League last term, certainly put up a stern test for the Premier League club’s first outing of the summer. Hodgson said: “We knew they’d do that. They’ve been training for three and a half weeks. They’ve got a European Cup tie in a weeks’ time – the first leg of a Europa League qualifying round - so we really expected to be under the cosh against them.
“We thought they’d be faster and sharper than us because we’ve only had a week’s training. And furthermore, we’ve trained quite hard in that period physically.”
The travelling squad includes several Academy players who have yet to make a first team appearance, including Kian Flanagan, Nya Kirby, James Daly and Tyrick Mitchell – as well as Sam Woods and Luke Dreher who made their first team bow last term – all of whom made an appearance tonight in Switzerland.
He added: “For the young players it was a fantastic experience to play that level of football and come away as the winners, even though it was by penalty shoot-out. The mood is very good in the camp, it’s great for the young boys to be able to step up and mix with the senior players.”
Hodgson is pleased with the club’s decision to travel to Switzerland, a country where the manager is a true icon, having guided the national team to third in the FIFA Rankings and 1994 World Cup, 25 years ago.
He said: “We’ve already got a lot out of it – it’s been an excellent trip. The training facility, the hotel, the fact we’ve had a good opportunity to work with so many players we don’t normally get an opportunity to work with - everything about the trip so far has been a 100% success story.
“I was concerned about the games – I’m concerned about Saturday’s game [against BSC Young Boys] because it’ll be an even tougher one than this. But if we can give that sort of level of performance and give that good an account of ourselves as we’ve done today, and we get two more training sessions in before Saturday – I think it will be a wonderful success.
“I’m hoping that on Saturday against Young Boys, two or three days will have gone by – and we’ll be able to field a stronger team for a longer period of time, and maybe not have to resort quite to the extent of substitutions we had to do tonight with only one outfield player playing the full 90 minutes – the young Sam Woods.”
Hodgson added: “It was amazing to see a group of 400-500 supporters here from Crystal Palace who have come all the way over to support us, it was nice that the penalty shoot-out was at their end. They saw, I think, some players that we hope in the future will maybe be some Crystal Palace players that they can support at Selhurst Park – not just here in Biel.”