BY SAM SMITH
Roy Hodgson admitted Jordan Ayew was about to be substituted before he struck the winning goal for Crystal Palace in their 1-0 victory over Aston Villa.
Christian Benteke and Andros Townsend were ready to be introduced when the Ghanaian clinically beat Villa goalkeeper Tom Heaton in the 73rd minute – but Ayew was one of the two players about to be replaced.
Hodgson said: “He was tiring with that amount of work rate and the work that he puts in, with the distance that he covers and the high speed running that he does, and we were thinking at 0-0 we might need to replace him here and give Christian Benteke ten minutes with fresh legs.
“Also, we were getting a lot of corner kicks and free kicks, and we thought having a big guy in the box to maybe get his head on one of these might help.”
The 27-year-old has already doubled his goal tally in the Premier League from last season, having also scored the opening goal in last weekend’s 2-1 win at Manchester United.
And Ayew appears to have improved Palace’s attacking potency playing as the lone striker with Wilfried Zaha and Jeffrey Schlupp on either flank.
“Had he not scored the goal today, I would still be heaping praise on him because of the work he does for us and the tactical understanding,” Hodgson said.
“He does the job we want him to do, tactically, to help get others to take up positions they need to, not just attacking-wise, but defensively too.”