By Sam Smith at Selhurst Park
Roy Hodgson defended Christian Benteke after the striker missed two excellent chances to score in Crystal Palace’s 2-1 defeat to Liverpool.
The Belgian has netted just two goals in 25 appearances this season but twice spurned opportunities with the score still 1-1. Mohamed Salah went on to score the winner with just six minutes remaining.
Hodgson said: “His performances up to his missed goal chances have been extremely good in terms of his work rate, in terms of his discipline and bringing people into play. He has been working hard.
“He was responsible for the flick-on which led to the penalty (scored by Luka Milivojevic) that put us into the lead so I thought his performance was very good. Of course, as a striker when you miss a few chances it is all people want to talk about and that (scoring) is what you are judged by.
“I have to judge him on different values. He is the only centre forward we have, he is working hard, he is doing the right things and he is getting into the right scoring positions. I just have to encourage him as much as I can so that he keeps getting himself into the right positions and keeps doing the work that we want him to do – both offensively and defensively.
“We just need to trust that the goal chances will be taken.”
The Eagles had played well before they conceded the late winner. Hodgson set his side up into a compact 4-5-1 formation which limited the space allowed to Liverpool’s notorious attacking trio of Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
Hodgson praised the performance, saying: “Our second half performance was very good. The first half was also good but more in terms of defensive shape and being disciplined. We kept them at bay and we limited their sight of goal.
“In the second half, especially after 1-1, we evened the game out in terms of possession. Our movement was very good and we improved our ability to ask questions of the Liverpool defence so it was a bitter blow to concede the second goal in the way we did. I thought that at least a point would have been accepted from us today.
“On each of these occasions that we have had these narrow defeats against the top teams, people have been very generous of their judgement [of our performances]. We can be proud and if we continue to play as we have we will definitely get results.”
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