BY MATT WOOSNAM
Roy Hodgson conceded that his Crystal Palace side were slightly fortunate to take all three points over Leicester at Selhurst Park after Vicente Guaita’s late save from Jamie Vardy.
The Eagles earned back-to-back home victories thanks to Luka Milivojevic’s thumping first-half goal, but they had their goalkeeper to thank for preventing an equaliser as the Foxes piled on second-half pressure.
The Spaniard, making his first Premier League appearance, tipped Vardy’s poked effort onto the post and gratefully clutched the rebound to his chest to preserve all three points.
Hodgson said: “It was good to get another clean sheet because we lost the goalkeeper [Wayne Hennessey] which we didn’t know until yesterday [Friday] so Guaita, who had a very good game, was thrust in last minute and didn’t have much preparation.
“Of course we lost [James] Tomkins, [Wilfried] Zaha and Cheikhou Kouyate, who had an excellent first half, so we really had to dig in in that final 30 minutes to make certain that we did keep the clean sheet. All credit not only to the goalkeeper but the back four for doing that.
“I’ve been to quite a lot of press conferences and you guys have told me that we were unlucky, that our football was good and with a bit more luck we would have gotten a better result. Today, for the first time I can give credence to that adage that good and back luck even themselves out because we were lucky not to concede the equaliser.
“Vicente made a good save because I know Jamie from when we were together at England and when he is played in that close to goal, I was expecting the ball to hit the back of the net. The good fortune was that the keeper got a hand to it and that it came back into his arms.”
Palace won without Zaha, who was absent through suspension alongside Tomkins, for the first time in over two years.
Hodgson was relieved to be able to put that statistic aside.
“It was a fact, but like all facts there’s often a story behind them. There’s been a lot of occasions that we’ve done more than enough to win games when he’s not playing, and we’ve played very well without him, but if it then turns out that good performance was a draw or an unfortunate defeat, the stark fact remains that we played, he didn’t and we lost.
“It’s nice we’ve managed to put that one to bed, but to be honest it’s something that’s got people talking and writing more than it’s actually got us thinking too much about it because we’ve always known this day would come. It’ll be nice that there will be a different press conference next Friday, or maybe not because it will still be Wilf dominated because people will be telling me that we can win without him.”
The game was far from free-flowing, possession-dominated, stylish, entertaining football, but the Eagles’ boss was not concerned about the manner in which his side earned all three points.
“It was never going to be a pretty game because it was never going to be an open game. It was a spectacular goal that won it for us, and I was rather hoping in the second half as they threw more front players on to the field as they have quite a lot of riches on the bench, that we would get the break that would see us score the second, but we ran into Maguire and Morgan who produced some exceptional individual defending at times.
“It’s a result that we have to be more than satisfied with. Results that you get when your back is against the wall and the thought of not getting the result pushes you into an area that you don’t want to be in, you have to be more than satisfied with.
“The important thing is we’re sitting here with three points in the bag, otherwise we would have found ourselves going into the next two games with far too few points.”