Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson can’t wait to have Wilfried Zaha back available – even though his side won tonight’s grudge clash against Brighton without their star attacker.
Going into this evening’s contest the Eagles had lost 18 of their 20 matches when Zaha had not played – and failed to score in 16 of those.
But strikers Jean-Philippe Mateta and Christian Benteke both provided quality finishes to clinch maximum points for Palace, who had played poorly in successive reverses to Leeds and Burnley.
Zaha missed out with the hamstring injury sustained at Newcastle United.
CHRISTIAN BENTEKE !!!!!!!!! Endyebehausbeheusbeh!
— Wilfried Zaha (@wilfriedzaha) February 22, 2021
Hodgson said: “That was mentioned in the dressing room [about winning without Zaha], but I must also add – as I have on a few occasions – that it would still be very, very nice to get him back.
“People should remember we are playing without five regular first-team players. We’ve got two centre-backs [out] in Tomkins and Sakho, midfield players in Jeff Schlupp and James McArthur – and Wilf Zaha. I would defy any team, if you take players of that quality out, to continue playing perhaps at the level they have played to up to that point.
“I still think the return, for the number of games, is good. But we also know there are going to be a lot of battles and hard-fought matches like this to come if we’re to get our points total up to what we need.
“Tonight we have optimised our chances of winning the game because they had so many more possibilities than we had. But these things happen in football. I can certainly point to a couple of occasions where it has happened to us this season in the last minute.
“I suppose it proves the adage, which I’m never 100 per cent certain of, that these things even out in the long run – because it certainly evened out with a vengeance for us tonight.”
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