Roy Hodgson hailed the defensive resilience of his side as they pulled off a last-gasp win at Brighton – with the Crystal Palace chief brushing aside a question about the hosts’ dominance.
The Seagulls had 25 shots – five on target – compared to the South London club’s three.
But crucially excellent finishes by Jean-Philippe Mateta and Christian Benteke – deep into second-half stoppage time – saw them chalk up victory over their bitter rivals.
Hodgson was asked about his side only having two touches inside the Brighton box – 50 fewer than the home team. He replied: “But the game isn’t about touches in the opposition box, is it? The game is about scoring goals and not letting any in. We worked unbelievably hard to try and make certain we didn’t let any goals in.
“It was hard work, because the opposing team were very, very good at keeping the ball – they have some unbelievably talented players.
“But we worked extremely hard to stop them having many chances. Tonight we were fortunate that a couple of our chances that we did create – and they were both very good goals – we took.
“The statistic that counts at the end of the day is goals against and goals for. Okay, they had the better of possession – that is for sure. They had the ball in our box more often and more corner kicks. But I’m not going to apologise for coming away with what we consider to be a very good victory.
“We had to accept we weren’t able to do enough ourselves with the ball when we were able to win it back, we were put under pressure immediately, and as a result quite often the ball was around our penalty area and final third than we could get the ball into their one.
“The first [goal] wasn’t a flick – it was a definite strike of the ball with his heel. And a very clever piece of movement to get in front of the defender, let the ball go through his legs and put it away like he did. Christian’s strike at the end was sublime. I’m very pleased for him because he has found himself quite often in shooting positions and it’s quite often not been the shot he’s tried to execute. That was a very clinical finish. It was certainly the shot he wanted to play. It gave us three very vital points.”
A section of the club’s support had put up a banner outside the entrance of the club’s training base in the lead up to the fixture criticising the tactics and desire of the players.
Asked if that made the three points sweeter, Hodgson said: “No, not particularly. This is what football is today. Win two matches and you’re apparently doing very well and lose two matches and then everything is wrong. That’s what we have to accept. But the way the players played tonight – anyone even daring to question their commitment, desire and aptitude for giving everything they have got for the club – would be very, very hard put to justify it.”
Palace are on 32 points – equalling their highest tally after 25 matches of a Premier League season.
Hodgson was asked if that was vindication for his methods.
“I don’t feel the need to be vindicated,” he said. “I don’t like to use that word, because the use of the word vindication would suggest something has been going awfully wrong in what we’re trying to do in the whole of the season.
“I don’t think vindication is the right word. We needed a better performance. We needed to show the commitment, courage and desire that we showed tonight in such an important game because our previous two games were obviously not good enough. But it’s a long season. Unfortunately all the seasons I’ve been at the club we’ve not quite managed to play every single game at the same high level that perhaps we’d have liked to have played, because that’s how football is.
“We asked the players to give a type of determined and hard-working performance that they gave and, of course, we were hoping that any chances that came our way we would take – and that’s exactly the way it turned out to be.”
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