Belfast Telegraph

Roy Hodgson mounts staunch defence of Wilfried Zaha following diving claims

Roy Hodgson has mounted a staunch defence of Wilfried Zaha, insisting the Crystal Palace winger is no cheat.

Zaha won two penalties as Palace grabbed a 2-2 draw against Bournemouth at Selhurst Park on Saturday, with the Eagles extending their unbeaten Premier League run to five matches.

Luka Milivojevic converted the first spot-kick after Zaha drew minimal contact from Cherries goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, but Christian Benteke missed the added-time penalty that cost Palace two priceless points.

A fourth draw in five matches left Palace rooted to the foot of the table but also saw Hodgson move to defend Zaha against claims he had conned referee Kevin Friend for at least one, if not both, penalties.

"He doesn't dive, that's the simple fact of the matter," said Palace manager Hodgson of Zaha.

"Apart from the two penalties awarded there were at least half a dozen other occasions where if you look at it with a fine-toothed comb, like everyone seems to want to do, there could have been more penalties.

"He doesn't dive, so that doesn't bother me.

"We haven't had an awful lot of luck with refereeing decisions at home.

"And if you really want to talk about refereeing decisions I suggest you look at the first Jermain Defoe goal, where their player has two arms around our defender, stopping him moving."

Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe said his club will "await feedback" after complaining to the match officials about both penalty awards.

Everton forward Oumar Niasse became the first Premier League player to be punished for the offence of "successful deception of a match official" - during a match against Palace - last month and was banned for two matches.

"I haven't seen (the incidents) again, the second one definitely our players feel is not a penalty, our players feel Charlie (Daniels) has got the ball," said Howe.

"So that really hurts. We would have lost the game but for a great save from our goalkeeper.

"The first one wasn't clear-cut either."

Meanwhile, a dmitting talisman defender Mamadou Sakho faces a spell on the sidelines with a calf injury, Hodgson also conceded Benteke's late penalty miss could well prove hugely costly to Palace's relegation battle.

"If in May we get relegated and two points would have kept us up, I'll say maybe these two points are the ones that cost us," said Hodgson.

"Christian will be the sort of guy thinking 'I need to make this up, I didn't score that penalty I really wanted to take and I owe you one'.

"So who knows, maybe we'll win a game by the odd goal and there'll be some piece of magic from him, and all this will be forgotten.

"But we can't use the fact he wanted to get off the mark for the season as an excuse.

"We don't know how bad Sakho's injury is yet. It's a calf injury, a pull if you like. The one thing I am resigned to is that he won't be playing in the next couple of games.

"He's been very good for us, but luckily Scott came in, scored a goal, and could have scored a second too and could have been our hero.

"So you could have been asking me, 'Are you pleased Sakho got injured and Dann came in?'."

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