Hodgson relief at opening day victory and praise for Hennessey’s crucial role

By Matt Woosnam

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson was full of praise for his side after they edged out a 2-0 victory on the opening day at Fulham.

There was to be no repeat of last season’s humiliation to a newly-promoted side on the opening day as despite a slow start, Palace grew into the game and secured all three points thanks to goals in either half from Jeffrey Schlupp and Wilfried Zaha.

“We didn’t start well, but that was largely down to Fulham starting with an enormous tempo,” he said.

“They didn’t just move the ball quickly; they were very sharp and quick into tackles, and made it very difficult to play the ball through midfield as we would have liked.

“I thought we got better at dealing with it, and scoring a goal helps in that respect because then they’re the team on the back foot. In the second half we did much better, but I would think Slavisa Jokanovic wouldn’t be unhappy with the way his team played. We certainly needed to pull out all of the stops and score two very good goals, and have a goalkeeper in good form to get us the three points today.”

The Eagles were indebted to their goalkeeper, Wayne Hennessey, who came in for significant criticism from supporters last season, but was faultless as he made several excellent saves to keep a clean sheet.

The Welshman’s performance drew praise from his manager, who confirmed that the shirt remains his to lose.

“I am very happy with him. He has started the season exceptionally well and helped us go the last six games of last season unbeaten, and he played very well in that period of time. Even though both goalkeepers have done well in pre-season and [Vicente] Guaita has been impressive too, I had no reason to take the shirt from Wayne, and obviously today it seemed like that decision was justified.”

The Palace boss was also delighted to record a victory on the opening day.

“It means a lot”, he added. “You get asked all these questions about how important it is to get off to a good start, and it is important because everyone wants it. The problem is that in a game of football, only one team can get off to a good start, so all you can do is prepare them to ensure that you are in some sort of position yourself to get off to a good start by winning. Given that dreadful run we had last season after seven games, to already have three points makes us happy.”

Young full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka was on form to keep the talented Ryan Sessegnon quiet, and his efforts did not go unnoticed.

“I thought he was absolutely excellent, both defensively and offensively. You only hope he’ll go from strength to strength – it is only his eighth game in the Premier League.

“He played on the opening game of the season, in a fantastic atmosphere against a team who has just come up and against Sessegnon who has had a wonderful season and is a bit of a flyer, so to do what he did today he will sleep well. If you’re going to give him a few pats on the back, I am more than happy to add my voice to the praise.”

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