BY MATT WOOSNAM
Roy Hodgson expressed his pride in his Crystal Palace side after a narrow 1-0 victory over Newcastle courtesy of a late Luka Milivojevic penalty.
Wilfried Zaha, who was Palace’s main threat throughout, was tripped in the penalty area by DeAndre Yedlin and referee Stuart Attwell awarded the Eagles a 10th penalty of the season, which their captain had no problem converting.
Both sides had goals rules out for offside but it was the visitors who found the winner, and Hodgson praised both Milivojevic and Zaha.
“It was a very important game; hard fought. I can be very, very proud of the team’s performance. We dealt with the attacking threat that Newcastle most certainly have.
“They’re very good at crossing the ball and getting bodies in the box and competing for those crosses. I thought it was a sterling effort from our back four and our goalkeeper and the midfield players helping us out as well to make certain we kept a clean sheet.
“On the counter-attack or even at the start of the game, not on the counter-attack, we looked quite dangerous. We were constantly threatening and looking like we might score the goal.”
With Zaha looking menacing despite playing as a striker alongside Michy Batshuayi until the latter was replaced by Christian Benteke, the Palace boss singled his star man out as one of the standout players.
“Luckily for us once again Wilf Zaha came to the fore and did what he does so well – dribbling past people in the penalty area and provoking the foul which gives Milivojevic, who’s been quite exceptional at taking penalties and scoring them, to give us the goal and the victory.”
Despite Milivojevic having missed only three spot kicks in his Eagles career, Hodgson conceded he still wasn’t sure his captain would convert.
“I’m never confident. I’ve been so lucky with penalty takers – Dan Murphy at Fulham and now with Luka. So really and truly I should just be sitting back quite comfortably saying: ‘Well, we’re 1-0 up’ but unfortunately because the goals are often match-winning goals, I think the only time [I can relax is] if ever we’re winning by a three goal margin and we get a penalty and Luka’s going to take it.
“Then I would definitely sit back and say: ‘Right, that’s all over, we’re four-up’. Ask him his secret, he might not tell you…”
PICTURES BY SEAN GOSLING