It was another week where Crystal Palace’s star-man, Wilfried Zaha was centre of attention as he was adjudged to dive in the box by referee Chris Kavanagh as Watford and Palace played out an entertaining 0-0 draw.
In recent years, both teams have had quite the history with each other, with Palace edging their London counterparts in important contests. Back in 2013 at Wembley Palace secured their Premier League status by winning the play-off at the expense of the Hornets and then in the FA Cup semi-final back in 2016, Connor Wickham’s second-half header sent the Eagles soaring again.
When the teams met earlier in the season, it was another engaging encounter as Palace produced an extremely late-show, inspired by Zaha to pick-up a vital three points.
Yesterday, the match had more importance for Palace as they were looking for the three points to all but secure Premier League survival. Although Watford are looking over their shoulders, the Hornets should be set for top-flight football next season, barring any miracles from the teams below them.
Hodgson pleased with point after poor first-half performance
After last week’s 3-2 victory over rivals Brighton at Selhurst, Hodgson and company were keen to keep momentum going. But in the end, they had to settle with a point after an improved second-half display. In the first-half, Watford were the aggressors, pushing the Eagles back and forcing them to defend for large periods.
In the opening periods of last week’s derby, the front three of Palace caused Brighton plenty of problems, here at Vicarage Road it was quite the opposite, as the Hornet’s back-four nullified the threat of Andros Townsend, Zaha and Ruben Loftus-Cheek well. And if Stefano Okaka’s header was slightly lower, they would have been ahead in the opening 15 minutes.
For Palace they just couldn’t find their rhythm and were fortunate not to go into the break a couple of goals down, speaking about the start, Hodgson said: “It was the ultimate game of two halves. Watford were clearly stronger, more determined and more aggressive in the first half and we allowed ourselves to be bullied out of too many situations.”
Zaha receives harsh yellow for diving
After weathering the storm, Palace came out and played the better football in the second-half and might have got the three points on another day, if the penalty decision was awarded.
It was the moment of controversy which enlivened the second-half. Unlike the first-half, Zaha was a constant threat in the second, and when he wriggled his way into the box, former Palace player Adrian Mariappa looked to trip the flying winger.
But Kavanagh deemed Zaha’s fall theatrical and booked the Palace man much to the delight of the Watford fans. But replays showed that Palace might have been slightly unfortunate with the decision.
Despite the drama of the penalty, Palace did other chances to get back-to-back to wins. Luka Milivojevic hit the crossbar with a free-kick and James Tomkins hit the post with a header later in the game. But ultimately the point was another step in the right direction for the Eagles.
On the penalty decision, Hodgson said: “I try hard not to be the person who bellyaches saying we should have had this or that, but having seen it again it was a pretty clear penalty decision and we consider ourselves unlucky there."
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Hodgson feels Zaha is suffering by a perceived reputation
Zaha’s game and stock has risen immensely this season and with that opposition teams will look to have plans in place to stop a player who many have tipped the best player outside the top six.
For Zaha, this reputation of him ‘being a diver’ has seemingly followed him, but his current managers said: “Reputation is a dangerous thing. He’s suffered badly because other managers come in and they give you [journalists] their version of the story and brand him as someone who dives for penalties, and the more it is written and spoken about, the more the legend is circulated.”
Hodgson concluded by sticking up for his star-man, saying: “I think I have a reputation as a relatively fair-minded person, and I would point out that he is anything other than a cheat or a diver.”