By Matt Woosnam
Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson bemoaned his side’s lack of concentration late-on as Harry Kane’s 88th-minute header earned a 1-0 victory for Tottenham in a hard-fought game.
The Eagles were dominated and were fortunate for Spurs wasting several excellent opportunities to score, but with a squad down to its bare bones, they were undone by Kane’s late winner after significant late pressure.
The 20-year-old Aaron Wan-Bissaka made his debut as he was named in the starting line-up with Mamadou Sakho failing to recover from injury and Joel Ward returning to the treatment table. Timothy Fosu-Mensah filled in at centre-back.
Hodgson was pleased with how his debutant performed, praising the right-back for taking his opportunity to impress.
“One of our problems of course was the youth, or the lack of experience, towards the end of the game,” he said.
“On the occasions where we won the ball back we tended to present it to them again by choosing the wrong option, in terms of choosing a pass or choosing the wrong option about where we play the ball. I completely understand that, but it was a factor towards the end. In the first half we were a little bit more lucid in terms of knowing what we wanted to do with the ball when we won it back. As we tired and they were just pushing – and hoping – for that magic moment, we gave them one or two more opportunities than we should have done.”
Wan-Bissaka became the first academy player to make a full league debut in over five years, and Hodgson said he had no qualms about thrusting the right-back into the spotlight.
“I thought he played extremely well, though that wasn’t a surprise. I don’t think we’d have put him in there – however desperate our situation – if we didn’t think he was capable. It was a big ask, because he’s trained with the first team for a period of time now but he’s not really had any opportunities to play in the first team. To get your first game at Selhurst Park against Tottenham Hotspur and the way that they play, and in a team that is a little bit wounded – in terms of those players around you – I thought he handled it extremely well.”
James Tomkins went down with an injury with five minutes remaining to add to the Eagles’ woes, but there is hope Martin Kelly and Sakho will return from injury to be fit to face Manchester United, with Fosu-Mensah ineligible to face his parent club.
“Tomkins had been very, very good for us in that position. Had you asked me “who is the player you would least like to lose in the last 10 minutes?” He would have been top of the list. He went down with serious cramp and tried to carry on, but we could see straight away that it wasn’t going to work because he couldn’t run properly.
“We’ll have to come to terms with [Fosu-Mensah’s ineligibility]. We hope that Tomkins will recover. It doesn’t seem to be a serious injury at the moment. Our hopes now lie with Kelly, who will start training on Monday after a long absence, and with Mamadou Sakho, who may return to training or may not.”