• by Yann Tear

Zaha has seldom played better against top side, says delighted Palace boss


Roy Hodgson said Wilfried Zaha played as well as he has ever done against a top level side - praising the winger for his goalscoring contribution against Liverpool.

Palace eventually lost 2-1 to Jurgen Klopp's league leaders on Saturday and they were very unlucky to finish empty-handed. But in breaking his duck for the season, Zaha gladdened the boss' heart and underlined his value.

His performances this season have been patchy and drawn some criticism, with suggestions that his failure to land a move to a top club in the summer affected his form. A lively display on Saturday answered the critics.

"Drawing criticism from [certain] quarters when it comes to being a professional footballer is part and parcel of the job. It's something which you have to learn to live with," said Eagles boss Hodgson.

"But I think the most important criticisms which Wilf has to take to heart are the ones that come from myself and my coaching staff. Today he was very good, Today he was certainly, in my opinion, back to his best form.

"I've not really seen him playing games against top-level opposition much better than he did today and that gives me great heart and hope for the future, because we believe in him. He's not just loved by the fans, he's loved by the players and the coaching staff as well because we know what he can do.

"He also needs to understand, which he does, that it's a big responsibility and we are all looking for him to give these sort of performances and to score the goal that he did score."

Hodgson will be relived that a horrible run of fixtures against top six clubs is over and that there should be a better chance of picking up points in the coming weeks - even though, he says, the Eagles must take nothing for granted.

"I know some of these coming up will be very difficult for us," He said. "Burnley and Watford away, the Bournemouth and Brightons. These are very tough games. We aren't Liverpool or Man City who've got the technical ability to blow these teams away, we have to work hard for all of our victories.

"While we've been handed a tough programme with five top teams in a row, and haven't been able to beat them, I think you should be able to shrug that off to some extent as long as your performances are satisfactory and you make certain that if there's any positives from those performances, you can take them forward. I believe there are and they will come forward into the matches we have now.

"For this club to have seven consecutive years in the Premier League is a good achievement and we are desperate to make it an eighth and to do that we need to get points in the games that are coming up and not beat ourselves up too much because we weren't able to get a point against Liverpool."

Summing up the defeat at the weekend, Hodgson added: "It's close but no cigar. It's a bitter blow after getting what we thought was a deserved equaliser to concede that second goal. But it's football. We have to learn to live with that.

"I thought it was our best performance of the season. I thought we really did play well. On another day we would have got that point, maybe even more."

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