Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson was delighted with his side’s potency in front of goal as they stunned Leicester with three goals in 20 second-half minutes in a thumping 4-1 win at the King Power stadium.
Wilfried Zaha hit a brace, whilst Luka Milivojevic converted a penalty after Michy Batshuayi had put the Eagles ahead with his first goal for the club in the first half, cleverly guiding an off-target James McArthur effort beyond Kasper Schmeichel.
Jonny Evans’ goal had temporary restored parity, but afterwards Palace ran riot in a peculiar game which saw them edge closer to Premier League safety.
“I was very pleased with the defending throughout the game,” said Hodgson. “It was important we dug in well. Leicester are a good team with some really good quality players. We worked very hard to make certain that we restricted them getting into the areas where they would get a clear sight at our goal.
“And as the game wore on of course, we established a little bit more control ourselves, we got a bit more of the ball in the second half by bringing Wilf and Andros [Townsend] that little bit deeper. It made it a little bit easier for our central midfield players, because they weren’t having to run quite so far out to the overlapping full-backs and that gave us a slightly stronger shape defensively than even the first half. ”We were able to get more possession in the centre of midfield and there was a lot of clinical finishing, which one has to be very happy about.”
Hodgson was pleased with Batshuayi’s contribution, and maintained that the striker was performing to expectations after his first Premier League start.
“He’s looking very lively,” said Hodgson. “Up at Doncaster, he was unlucky not to score. We think that he’s doing what we would like him to do and showing all the signs we expected from him in terms of being a goalscorer.
“His performance was really, really good in every respect. Not just offensively, it was a good performance defensively because we blocked off a lot of the passes into the centre of midfield. He dropped deep and made it difficult for them.”
The Palace boss also singled out Zaha for praise.
“It [scoring] has been something he’s been talking about and promising that he’ll do and thinks he needs to do,” said Hodgson. “That’s the first time he’s scored in three consecutive games and he took both goals well.
”The first one needed a solid side-foot. The other one, which put the game totally to bed, was a really good strike at goal. It was the sheer power which beat Schmeichel on that occasion.”
The victory leaves Palace 13th in the table, six points clear of Southampton who occupy the final relegation spot.
“We’re on a good run of form with two very tough matches coming up against Man United and Burnley but this victory will give us a lot of heart,” said Hodgson. “What’s more, all the points you’ve got no one can take away and we’re getting closer, if you like, to that magical number of 40 that we all keep at the back of our minds. ”With the 11 matches we’ve got and the players that we’ve got to use to get the points, I’ve got to be confident that we’ll do it.
“If we’re capable of coming to a team like Leicester and getting a win, if we’re capable of getting a win at Manchester City, if we’re capable of doing that then I’ve got to believe in this team and got to believe that somewhere along the line, those points we need will come. But who knows where? We never go into a game chance-less of getting points, even if it happens to be Man City or Liverpool.”
PICTURES BY SEAN GOSLING