BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Wilfried Zaha’s failure to convert a penalty against Brazilian side Botafogo last Saturday ensured the friendly match finished 0-0.
His 36th-minute strike was saved by a familiar face – goalkeeper Lucas Perri. The Brazilian shotstopper was at the Selhurst Park side for six months in 2019, after joining on loan in that January transfer window under then boss Roy Hodgson.
On his return to the club, Perri stopped Zaha scoring in the first half, ensuring the Ivorian’s sixth miss in his last nine attempts from the spot.
“I looked in his eyes until the last moment but, at some point, you need to look at the ball and make sure you do the best you can do to save,” said Perri. “I could wait for his decision and I made the save, it’s a great feeling.”
Perri never played for the Eagles first team, but did appear a number of times for the U23 side, including appearances in SE25.
“It’s great to come back here and play a game, it’s a different feeling” said the 24-year-old. “The atmosphere of the stadium is incredible, even with 30 per cent of the capacity. It was a great match for everyone who attended and I was happy to make a good game. It was a really nice experience I’m going to take for the rest of my life.”
Perri was one of two former Eagles who played for Botafogo on Saturday, with midfielder Jacob Montes also setting foot on the Selhurst Park pitch.
The USA-born player initially signed for Palace in May 2021, but never played a match, moving to Belgium on loan immediately to join Waasland Beveren, a club invested in by Palace director David Blitzer.
Montes then joined RWD Molenbeek, a Belgium club with a majority shareholding owned by Palace co-owner and director John Textor, before moving to Botafogo – a club owned 90 per cent by Textor.
“It was a great experience for me to be in this stadium around these fans from Palace and Botafogo,” said Montes about finally getting on to the Selhurst grass. “I’m very grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had from both clubs and I look forward to continuing to grow.
“When you have these two clubs playing each other, they’re bringing together a family in a way. Obviously, it was a competitive match but it was good and everyone enjoyed it.”
For Perri, he got to meet up again with his former team-mates and was particularly pleased to hear the news about one of them, a player who had made him feel at home when he arrived from South America in South London.
“At the beginning before the match, I met four or five players that I played with in my time here so it was really nice,” said Perri
“But what I remember most about my time here is the time that I spent and worked with Julian Speroni,” added Perri about the Argentina goalkeeper who made over 350 appearances for the club, won four player of the year awards and who has now returned to the club as an academy coach.
“He’s a fantastic guy,” said Perri. “I was happy to hear that he’s back at Palace, at the academy. That’s the best memory I have in the time I was here – working with him.”
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