Eze taking well to Premier League demands, says Palace boss, who has say on clean sheet and Luka
Roy Hodgson praised Eberechi Eze for his brilliant solo goal, saying the midfielder has shown he is already taking to the Premier League after his summer switch from Championship QPR.
It was only the Palace playmaker’s second goal for the club following his £19.5m move, but oozed class and confidence. It also eased Palace to a much-needed victory as they cruised to a 2-0 win over bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United.
“It was wonderful,” said the Palace boss of the goal just before half time which featured some lovely close control and a swift glide from his own half before virtually passing the ball into the net.
“To be fair, it’s always a problem if you don’t put him in the team from the start but I just thought today that Andros [Townsend] after his excellent performance against Leicester City – and knowing that this game was going to be a bit of a scrap in many ways – it was good to have him up my sleeve to bring on if we needed that little bit of extra magic.
“As it happens, he came on early and produced the magic early.
“What we need to do with Eberechi, and I’ve talked to him about it, is that we increase the intensity of his play, because the intensity of this league, as everyone knows, is very, very high.
“I don’t know the Championship – I've never worked in it – but it’s probably fair to say he might get a little bit more time there and you might be forgiven for not getting back in position, and making the right defensive moves. But he fully understands that and is working unbelievably hard to take all that on board.”
Hodgson was almost as delighted with the clean sheet as the three points. It was the first shut-out since the opening day win against Southampton.
“I think it’s very important today that in the second half, we kept a clean sheet,” he said.
“We’ve conceded some unbelievably late goals. We’ve thrown and awful lot of things away in this first half of the season and we’ve got to try and stop doing that, so it’s good today that they didn’t get one at least, because every time it happens to you, it’s a bit of a deja-vu situation you don’t want to experience.
“It was important to keep the clean sheet. It surprises that it’s taken us so long to do so and it surprises me we’ve let in so many goals, although if you analyse it, 14 or 15 of the 30 goals we’ve conceded came in three matches.”
Hodgson added: “I thought it was a very good defensive performance. I thought we worked unbelievably hard and pressurised them well – didn't give them much chance to get in the crosses they like to get in or play those balls in between the lines that they like to do.
“I thought that was a good effort from the front to the back. We scored two excellent goals and there were opportunities in the second half to aggravate the score.
“We are on the back still of needing these three points to in some way get over the two matches which cast such a shadow over our first half of the season [heavy defeats to Liverpool and Villa], so I think it’s quite normal, when you’re leading 2-0, that you want the game to end to give you the three points.”
The day was not perfect, as injuries to Jeffrey Schlupp – scorer of their first goal – and Christian Benteke added to woes over skipper Luka Milivojevic, who is in trouble for flouting lockdown rules.
“It’s an internal matter, but I must say we’re very disappointed about it,” Hodgson said. “We’re disappointed as a football club. We don’t expect that to happen. We don’t expect our players to break any rules.
“Luka’s apologised but that’s not really enough. He needs to take responsibility. He should know that these are matters that are going to cast the club in a bad light. We can only apologise. There is no excuse. We are unhappy about it.”