(Reuters) – Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez said on Friday that he was surprised the Football Association had not looked into Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha’s comments that he was not being given enough protection by referees.
Newcastle, who are second bottom having won none of their opening five Premier League games, travel to 12th-placed Palace on Saturday.
Benitez added that he was confident match referee Andre Marriner would treat Zaha the same as he would any other player despite the Ivory Coast international’s criticism.
Zaha, who is Palace’s top scorer with three goals this season, said after his team beat Huddersfield Town last weekend that he felt he would have to get his leg broken before any of his opponents were sent off.
The Ivory Coast international is one of the most fouled players in England along with Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, but Benitez said that was always going to be the case with players who were good at running with the ball.
“I’m surprised because normally the FA deals with these comments, but I have a lot of confidence in Andre Marriner,” Benitez told reporters on Friday.
“He has experience, even if his record with our players is not the best in terms of red cards, I’m confident he is a very good referee with a lot of experience and he will deal with the situation in a normal way.
“The way (Zaha) plays he will receive more tackles than other players because he likes to run at players… When we talk about you cannot ask for a yellow card during the game, (what about) asking for a red card before the game?”
Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson denied that the club had contacted Professional Game Match Officials Ltd, the body responsible for match officials in English football, over Zaha’s complaints.
“There has been no specific contact,” Hodgson said at his pre-match news conference, adding that Zaha should not be criticised for expressing his opinion.
“People are entitled to say what they feel sometimes,” the former England manager said. “I don’t think we should be in such a rush to criticise someone for coming out and saying something heartfelt.
“It’s the player making the comment, who has to stand for that and I don’t think it’s right for other people to chip in.”
Newcastle have Jonjo Shelvey available after the midfielder recovered from a thigh strain that has kept him out of action since Aug. 18, while Palace striker Christian Benteke is still out with a knee injury.
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)