BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira praised the improved defensive qualities of club talisman Wilfried Zaha despite the forward scoring his ninth Premier League goal of the season in their 2-0 victory away at Wolves on Saturday.
“It’s just about him understanding that the game is about 11 players on the field that need to work together,” said Vieira about what has been key to the improvements the Ivorian forward has made to his defensive game.
“That football is about having the ball and not having the ball. He has a massive part to play when we don’t have the ball.”
Zaha impressed with his skills at both ends of the pitch, including an impressive last-ditch penalty box tackle to prevent a Wolves goal when they threatened to get back into the game in the second half.
The Eagles had gone into the break 2-0 up thanks to a Jean-Philippe Mateta goal, assisted by Zaha, who then stuck away a penalty shortly after.
Vieira is hoping the form at both ends can continue.
“We put him in situations where we’re going to win the ball higher [up the pitch] and he can express his talent,” said Vieira. “When he works like he did today or he did against Watford he always manages to create chances and score goals. If he maintains this kind of performance that will be really good for us.”
As usual, Zaha was very quickly given the role of pantomime villain by the opposition fans, who booed and whistled him almost from the first minute of the match, despite there being no controversial incidents.
And when the Ivorian scored from the spot, he acknowledged the special support he received by cupping his ears to the home support, pointing one thumb down and using his other hand to signify that a lot of talk was said to him – and ignored.
“I don’t want that to change,” said Vieira in response to whether Zaha needed to change his temperament. “I don’t want that to change because that is part of who he is. We need this passion and I don’t want to take that away from him.”
PICTURE: KEITH GILLARD