Palace toil again in Zaha’s ab­sence

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Sport | Football - By Tom Pren­tki at Sel­burst Park

When Wil­fried Zaha doesn’t play, Crys­tal Palace don’t win. The Ivo­rian winger missed nine games last sea­son, and Palace lost all of them. He was miss­ing again yes­ter­day, and the same re­sult en­sued.

“I don’t quite know what I can say about it un­til such time as we play a game with­out Wilf and win,” said Roy Hodg­son on the eve of his first an­niver­sary as Palace man­ager. “It’s a fact. He didn’t play to­day, and again we didn’t win. It’s fact that we have to learn to live with. There will be games where Wilf doesn’t play and I would like to think that the squad that we have is good enough to win with­out him.”

They weren’t, and there seems to be a lack of clar­ity around Zaha’s ab­sence. While Hodg­son de­clared that he had done some­thing to his left ad­duc­tor, the Ivory Coast claimed his omis­sion from the squad for their game with Rwanda was due to per­sonal rea­sons. There was lit­tle sign of any prob­lem with Zaha as he trot­ted down the touch­line in flip-flops ahead of kick-off in a game de­cided by goals from Danny Ings and Pierre-Emile Ho­jb­jerg.

Southamp­ton were good value for their first league win of the sea­son to ease the pres­sure on man­ager Mark Hughes ahead of the in­ter­na­tional break after an unin­spir­ing start.

“We’re de­lighted. We fully de­served the re­sult. It was a re­ally good per­for­mance,” said Hughes. “We had to show dif­fer­ent parts to our game, dif­fer­ent qual­i­ties. First half, there was a lot of con­trol in our play, sec­ond half, we had to dig in and do the ugly stuff. That’s the sign of a good team in my view.”

The vis­i­tors were dom­i­nant in the first half and twice went close to tak­ing the lead. First, as Ma­madou Sakho’s full-stretch block pre­vented Shane Long from scor­ing, then when Wayne Hen­nessey, who also saved a sec­ond­half penalty, spared Luka Milivo­je­vic’s blushes as his header threat­ened to find the back of his own net.

Hodg­son opted to give Jor­dan Ayew a de­but, part­ner­ing him with Chris­tian Ben­teke who has not scored from open play since Jan­uary, but they posed lit­tle threat in the first half.

Southamp­ton made their dom­i­nance tell within two min­utes of the restart. Ings showed all his poacher’s in­stincts to poke the ball through Hen­nessey’s legs for his sec­ond goal of the sea­son.

“Danny needs to get a clear run from in­juries for the next cou­ple of years, and ev­ery­body will see what a good player he is,” said Hughes of his dead­line-day cap­ture.

Palace, list­less un­til that point, re­sponded im­me­di­ately with Milivo­je­vic curl­ing a shot against the cross­bar from the edge of the area.

Southamp­ton sub­sti­tute Char­lie Austin then had a chance to give his team breath­ing space with a penalty after Aaron Wan-Bis­saka had han­dled his ef­fort at goal. His spot-kick was weak and tele­graphed and Hen­nessey was able to save com­fort­ably.

For the fi­nal 15 min­utes, it was all Palace but it proved yet an­other frus­trat­ing af­ter­noon for Ben­teke. In the 95th minute, Matt Tar­gett ex­ploited the space af­forded him down the left flank and rolled the ball across for Ho­jb­jerg to tuck home.

Preda­tory in­stinct: Danny Ings opens the scor­ing for Southamp­ton as he slots the ball through goal­keeper Wayne Hen­nessey’s legs

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