BY MATT WOOSNAM
Roy Hodgson believes that star forward Wilfried Zaha is constantly improving after he put in a man-of-the-match performance in Crystal Palace’s 3-2 win over Cardiff City.
Zaha scored the opening goal with an excellent finish from the edge of the box, before Martin Kelly’s own goal pulled the hosts level. But Michy Batshuayi and Andros Townsend added two more to put the Eagles in control, while Bobby Reid netted a late consolation.
But the Ivorian was a menace throughout, involving himself in the majority of attacks, with Hodgson switching him to the left of a midfield four, rather than the second striker in a front two where he has recently been deployed.
The goal in Wales was his 10th of this Premier League campaign, his highest-ever top-flight haul, and nine of those have come away from home.
Hodgson said: “He probably gets a bit more freedom [in away games] as there is no doubt that it is harder for teams to sit in and to double up all the time.
“I think he is improving all the time anyway; I think his understanding of when he needs to release the ball, when he does need to be doing all the wonderful tricks he is capable of doing and that is something which in recent weeks has been really good for me and my coaching staff to see and he has got the reward – of those nine goals, five or six of them have come in the last six weeks, because he has been scoring regularly.”
The Eagles boss was also pleased with the way his side played to avoid a potential slip-up against a side needing a win to cling on to any hope of survival.
“It was a clinical performance, and there was some extremely good play. It was an exciting game as well, and although I thought we spurned quite a few chances which the quality of our play had managed to produce, Cardiff were never out of it.
“There was always that risk that they would get a strike away and score, as we saw right at the end of the game – there had been two or three warnings of that goal coming before he actually scored it.
“I have got to say that over the 90 minutes, our performance, our creation of really good goalscoring opportunities, and the way we went about our business as well was excellent.
“When you play these games, you’re playing a team that is going to be fighting to the death; Cardiff have fought very, very hard in every game throughout the season.
“We knew they’d be giving us nothing and that we’d have to work hard and fight for every opportunity to come our way. I must congratulate the players for that, because I thought we matched them very much in that area as well as showing the necessary quality when we were on the ball.”