Hodgson praise for Benteke as Palace striker makes amends

Hodgson praise for Benteke as Palace striker makes amends
Premier League - Leicester City vs Crystal Palace - King Power Stadium, Leicester, Britain - December 16, 2017 Crystal Palace's Christian Benteke scores their first goal Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine
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LONDON (Reuters) – Belgian striker Christian Benteke made good on his pledge to make amends to his Crystal Palace team mates as he ended his long scoring drought with the first goal in his side’s 3-0 victory at Leicester City on Saturday.

Benteke was the villain of the piece last week when he ignored team orders to take, and miss, a stoppage-time penalty that would have given Palace victory over Bournemouth.

But his headed goal after 18 minutes, his first in 1,106 minutes of Premier League football and Palace’s first on the road this season, paved the way for a victory that lifted Roy Hodgson’s side out of the bottom three.

Wilfried Zaha, whose form has helped Palace climb out of trouble, scored a silky second and Bakary Sako was also on target in stoppage time at the King Power Stadium.

“Benteke was very strong. The day after (the penalty miss) he came in and held his hand up, he spoke to the players and myself and made the point that he would make it up to team, and that is what he has done,” Hodgson said.

“We know that he is a quality player and the goal he scored is the sort of one he’s going to score, and had it not been for a wonder-save by Kasper Schmeichel, he would have scored two today because he got in the positions well.

“His record at Aston Villa was one every two games, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he matched that here in the remaining games of the season — that’s what we’re hoping for.”

Palace have 17 points from 18 games, which is a remarkable turnaround considering they had none, and no goals, after seven.

Former England boss Hodgson, who lost his opening three league games in charge after replacing Frank de Boer in September, has been the mastermind behind their recovery from the worst start in top flight history.

With struggling Swansea City up next for Palace they could even find themselves clear of danger before Christmas, although Hodgson knows they must maintain the level that has seen them put together a seven-match unbeaten run.

“We did feel a bit marooned (at the bottom of the table), there was a time when we were looking up at everyone above us and the gap was massive,” Hodgson, 70, said.

“But since then we have started playing the way we have over the past few games, and if we can produce performances like this all the way until May, we will have given ourselves a chance.”

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)

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