Wilfried Zaha “deserves all the praise he is going to get”, said Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson after the winger scored and made another goal to inspire a victory and inflict more misery on bottom side Fulham.
Palace was on the back foot for much of the encounter, with the hosts having almost 70% possession, but netted twice on the counter-attack.
Zaha’s thumping strike was saved by Alphonse Areola but in the next move, the Ivorian slipped a sublime reverse ball through to Jairo Riedewald to slot in the opener.
Fulham could have got back into the contest but Ademola Lookman twice hit the woodwork in the opening period, seeing an effort tipped onto the near post by Vicente Guaita and drilling a drive across goal which rattled the other post.
The visitors capitalised in the second half as Michy Batshuayi picked out Zaha for an easy finish at the back post.
Hodgson said of Zaha: “He reminds us that when he’s on top of his game he’s a very hard player to stop.
“He’s an excellent player and that’s what he’s capable of doing. He deserves all the praise he’s going to get.”
Fulham was reduced to 10 men late on when substitute Aboubakar Kamara was shown a red card for raking his studs on the back of Ebere Eze’s leg, and skipper Tom Cairney’s stunning, long-range strike proved merely a consolation.
Palace made a huge leap up the table, jumping from 14th place to fifth, while Fulham remains rooted and stay in search of their first win.
Palace conceded late on against Brighton in their previous game and had to be content with a point, but the win over Fulham ends a run of three without victory.
After that home draw against the Seagulls, ex-Fulham manager Hodgson took aim at his star man Zaha suggesting he could have contributed more and expected his player to “cause havoc”.
The former Manchester United man responded by doing just that against the Cottagers, showcasing dancing feet and superb skills to lead Palace to their third win of the campaign.
Hodgson said: “If ever I sound mildly critical he thinks I’m picking on him, but every press conference I go to he’s the only player they want to talk to me about.”
Zaha’s step-overs and darts forward often left Fulham full-back Ola Aina floundering, while one ‘scorpion kick’ pass to a team-mate was particularly outrageous, stretching out his leg and flicking the ball over his head.
And his menace turned into a match-winning contribution too, a delightful ‘no-look’ pass carved open the Fulham defence for Riedewald’s first Palace goal.
Zaha somehow nodded a free header wide from six yards out but did get his fifth goal this term by converting Batshuayi’s lay-off, although there was a concern when he collided with the post in scoring.
He managed to finish the game and could have been on the scoresheet again in injury-time, but his effort from close range was ruled out for offside.
Zaha added: “I love football so there’s no day I don’t enjoy it really. I’ve set myself personal goals and that’s what I’m attacking every day.”
In Other News – West Ham United 1 – 1 Manchester City
Michail Antonio scored a wonderful goal to earn his side a hard-earned point against Manchester City, who have now won once in four Premier League games.
Antonio’s spectacular acrobatic overhead volley from Vladimir Coufal’s cross put the Hammers ahead at London Stadium – and provided another twist in this unpredictable top-flight season.
But substitute Phil Foden equalised for City six minutes after coming on at the start of the second half, producing a really good turn to score following Joao Cancelo’s pass. learn more
Source – BBC