A Luka Milivojevic penalty on 25 minutes put Palace in pole position for the points, but the win was wrapped up by Jeffrey Schlupp with three minutes remaining with Batshuayi heavily involved in the build-up as some trickery in the area and a fierce shot saw the chance present itself to the Ghanaian, which delighted Hodgson who had a hunch Batshuayi would make an instant impression.
Speaking in his post-match press conference, Hodgson discussed a number of issues including:
Batshuayi: “He’s only just been at the club for 24 hours as I met him at 4pm yesterday, so it was an incredible impact. He has a record of scoring in almost every debut he’s had for other teams, so that was in my mind and he almost kept that record going. He got the assist as the goalkeeper couldn’t take the shot and Jeff did ever so well to follow it up and tap it in, but it was strong of him to come in at such short notice and do what he did.
“We think we’ve signed a player who will be of enormous value to us in our attempts to stay in this league, which won’t be easy as we face a lot of competition and it’ll be hard to see it through. I think the squad without him was good, but he and Bakary Sako will make us stronger and we need that.
“Most the clubs in the bottom half of the table are not bad at defending well, but the big question is do you have people in your team like the big teams have? When the goals dry up things become very difficult, and I’m happy that we now have alternatives and enough players to score the goals we will need to keep us in the league.”
The game: “The first half was a difficult one for us, but we knew they’re a good team so I wasn’t surprised it was difficult. We didn’t pass the ball anywhere near as well as we are capable of doing in the first half, but we got a break because it was a good cross and I didn’t expect [Cyrus] Christie to handle it and give us that penalty. These things do happen in football and only he’ll be able to tell us how it came about.
“We got that break and took it, and almost aggravated the score with what would have been a wondergoal by Christian Benteke, but certainly in the second half I thought we played much better. Our control was better and our passing was starting to come back to its normal levels and we piled a bit of pressure on them, not least from our corner kicks, and the second goal was a long time coming, but it was an important goal for us.”
Striking options: “On an all-round performance it was [Jordan Ayew’s] best. His work-rate and efforts in the game against Southampton in midweek were fantastic and today again you see the man has superhuman powers in terms of the effort he puts in. He did well with the ball as well.
“Christian [Benteke] was complaining at half-time about the onset of cramp, and we knew we couldn’t play him for 90 minutes but the good thing is that when you have Batshuayi and Bakary Sako on the bench, you’re not frightened to take him off because you’ve got such good alternatives.”
Praise for Schlupp: “It’s quite strange – the players that are heralded by the fans are not always the ones that we coaches think are the most important people in terms of winning games. I’ve always believed in Jeffrey Schlupp as a left-back, a left-sided midfielder or on the left of midfield in a three because he has a lot of qualities.”
Christian Benteke: “If I listen to the sports scientists who know what he’s capable of, they tell me to give him 45 minutes maximum, and we pushed that to 60-65 and knew he was cramping up, but the fans don’t know that. They just think it’s nice to see Christian back and he got his head on a few balls.
“The thing Christian has to do is win everyone over by start scoring some goals. I’ve been at the club 16 months and he’s scored three, so unfortunately whatever the fans think we do need a centre-forward who is going to score some goals. I’m very pleased to see Christian back because I believe he’s got those goals in him, but up to now we haven’t benefited from them.”