Crystal Palace’s 2-1 victory over rivals Brighton proves that the Eagles can win without Wilfried Zaha, despite their poor record when their star man is absent, defender Gary Cahill has said.
Christian Benteke sensationally volleyed home the winner five minutes into added-time at the AMEX Stadium. Joel Veltman had equalised for the South Coast after after Jean-Philippe Mateta’s first Palace goal had put them ahead.
The Eagles had lost 18 of the last 20 matches that Zaha had missed before this game. The Ivory Coast international has a hamstring injury.
“We’ve proved that wrong today,” Cahill, who played most of the second half with a bloodied nose after blocking a goal-bound effort, told Sky Sports when asked about the stat.
“The stat obviously speaks for itself, such is his quality. His presence in the team is vital, ever since I’ve been here that has been apparent. The way he can carry the ball and move up the pitch gives us a breather at times.
“His quality is there for everyone to see, he’s added goals this season and he’s a big miss. But it’s important that we’re not just relying on one player because we have a couple of players who can fill in his role perfectly well.
“Today we got the result, we obviously wish him a speedy recovery and hope to get him back very soon along with others. We’ve had a few injuries this season, so that’s not helped. He’s a big player for us but we need to move on. We can’t just rely on one player all the time. Today to get the result is satisfying.”
Palace had to overcome heavy pressure from the hosts. Roy Hodgson’s side managed just three shots to Brighton’s 25.
Cahill said it was important to halt a poor run of form. The Eagles had lost four of their previous six matches.
Asked how they overcame Brighton, the 35-year-old said: “Character. We showed a lot of determination. We suffered a lot in the game – defensively we had to work as a team and collectively. We did that.
“The result is the most important thing. It’s a derby, it’s one for the fans to enjoy. It was a six-pointer coming into this game so we’re delighted that we’ve taken the three points.
“We knew how big this game was coming into it. We knew we could either go level on points with Brighton (if they lost) or we could go six points ahead and get out of the bottom zone.
“The last couple of results have not gone our way and performance wise we have not been at it. We’ve been too open and we went back to basics today. Maybe because of that, we suffered a lot with the ball – Brighton are a good side on the ball.
“We suffered in the game but to go on and win it was satisfying. In these games sometimes, when they play it like it did, all that matters is the result, but we did have to suffer in the game.”
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