Hodgson believes ‘superb’ Zaha has ability to match elite

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Roy Hodgson insisted Wilfried Zaha is capable of earning parity with Alexis Sanchez and Eden Hazard after watching the forward inspire Crystal Palace closer to safety with a 3-2 victory over rivals Brighton.

The 25-year-old’s two goals were his latest significant contribution towards Palace’s pursuit of preserving their Premier League status. They climbed above Swansea and up to 16th with the victory, six points clear of the bottom three.

Palace are still to secure a league point this season in Zaha’s absence, and comparing his influence to that of Manchester United’s Sanchez and Chelsea’s Hazard, Hodgson said: “We can’t ask any more than what he’s giving us.

“His dribbling ability and ability on the ball has been very good for a long time, so what step can he take to get himself up there recognised like Sanchez, like Eden Hazard is recognised at Chelsea?

“What’s he going to do to make that step? With his qualities, he can take that step and become even better.”

Former Manchester United forward Zaha won two caps for England in friendly matches some five years ago but has since chosen to represent the Ivory Coast, the county of his birth, at international level.

Asked how much of a loss to England the improving Zaha represented, ex-Three Lions boss Hodgson said: “I’m partly responsible because I gave him his debut, and then he was at United not playing and we didn’t follow up on it. But I’m pretty certain that many England managers will follow me saying it’s a pity he did choose the Ivory Coast.

“Wilf has been in superb form this season, and last season towards the end too. But another player who still has a hope, and strengthened his chances (of reaching the World Cup) was Ruben Loftus-Cheek. We had to take him off for the last 10 minutes as he cramped up, but his performance was fantastic.”

Zaha’s brace against Brighton came either side of a James Tomkins strike, with the visitors responding through former Palace striker Glenn Murray and Jose Izquierdo as all five goals came in the first half.

Despite the loss – their third in four league games – Chris Hughton’s side remain in 13th place, seven points above the relegation zone.

Hughton criticised his team’s poor defending throughout the first half that contributed to Palace twice building a two-goal lead, but he remains optimistic about their chances of staying up.

He said: “We’ve always been confident (of avoiding relegation). It’s a difficult period for us at the moment, but there’s enough in our game that gives us confidence we can get results.

“It’s also a question of other teams getting results as well. But we’ve always been confident. What it will take? How many points we’ll need? Where will we get these points from? That I can’t tell you.

“I don’t think you can explain that first-half defending. You work during the week on set-plays. We’ve been very good. What we did do a while back is change it, and we’d not conceded from a corner since. That was hugely disappointing.

“A third goal, too, from Zaha when we know the type of runs he make. We can set the team up as best we can, but the players have to produce. What we produced was a good second-half performance, but the damage had been done by then.”

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