Date published: Sunday 8th December 2019 1:56
Roy Hodgson hailed winger Wilfried Zaha for inspiring Crystal Palace to seven points in a week in which he has been the subject of transfer speculation.
On Saturday, he was subjected to a number of strong tackles from Watford players and had an ongoing battle with Etienne Capoue at Vicarage Road.
Zaha came close to losing his cool in the first half although recovered his composure – with unused substitute Scott Dann and Hodgson both talking to the 27-year-old – and helped his side earn a point after a 0-0 draw.
All of this occurred in a week where transfer talk surrounding the Eagles favourite has been prominent, especially with Chelsea no longer serving a transfer ban and able to sign players in January.
Hodgson said: “What a good performance. I was delighted with him and also for him because in the first half it was clear they were going to mark him tightly and there is nothing wrong with that.
“To get a yellow card for that (challenge on Christian Kabasele), in another life it could have really upset his performance, but his second half performance was quite outstanding and he was a constant threat.
“It was an excellent performance. He has had a really good week in terms of temperament and quality and we’re very grateful for the help he has given us in getting those seven points.”
Zaha and Palace now turn their attention to a derby clash with Brighton at Selhurst Park on Monday week, but they could be missing Jeffrey Schlupp.
The utility man suffered a “muscle injury” in the stalemate at Watford and was replaced at half-time by Jairo Riedewald.
Hodgson added: “We did catch it relatively early and he didn’t feel it was snapped or pulled, but it was the case for Patrick Van Aanholt too and he is not likely to be ready (for Brighton) unfortunately.
“We could be facing that dilemma at left-back that we lose not one, but two and already we have Martin Kelly deputising for Joel Ward.”
New Watford manager Nigel Pearson was in the stands for the goalless draw with Palace and despite the Hornets halting a run of three straight defeats, they remain bottom.
Under-23 boss Hayden Mullins has taken charge of the first-team this week and says Ismaila Sarr can be a key player in their battle to avoid relegation.
He said: “There’s a mixture of experience, youth and pace, good technical players and good defenders. Nigel’s got a real good mix of everything (in the squad).
“I think young Sarr in the wide areas, he’s got loads of energy, loads of running in him, so he’s an exciting player.
“Nigel’s got a very good squad to work with and I’m sure he’ll come in and start working with them and getting his ideas across.”