Belfast Telegraph

Roy Hodgson surprised by how quickly Palace have responded to him

Roy Hodgson did not expect Crystal Palace to respond so quickly to his methods and believes their 2-1 defeat of Chelsea puts them ahead of schedule in their battle against relegation.

Their first points and goals of the Premier League season came after a significantly improved performance in which they outclassed the defending champions.

In only their fourth league game since Hodgson's appointment as Frank de Boer's successor, they demonstrated a level of organisation he said Fulham, who he inspired to survival in 2008, required three months to reach.

Fulham eventually survived on the final day of that season, and Hodgson said: "This has come quicker than I expected.

"It took us a long while to get anything like this sort of team performance at Fulham; we didn't do it after a month. We'd have been into two or three months before we could say, 'Yeah, this is what we want, what we're looking for'.

"Hopefully now the players know that they can do it, because they've done it against the champions, so with 30 games to go, we're never going into a game not feeling that we can get something out of it."

The fit-again Wilfried Zaha was particularly influential, and asked of the change in the player he last worked with with England in 2012, Hodgson said: "He was really just then a pure, raw talent. Now he's much more all-round, physically-stronger, aware of what's required in position than he was."

Zaha was asked if Palace can survive, and he responded: "Yes we can. It's just all about confidence. That's it really, because I know we have good enough players. Just play with confidence and freedom and we'll soon start climbing the table."

The defeat was Chelsea's third of the season, leaves them nine points behind first-placed Manchester City, and also represented their second in succession after they excelled in winning at Atletico Madrid.

Their manager Antonio Conte has warned his team they face a "difficult season", but the Italian insisted he did not see Michy Batshuayi's complaints at his substitution early in the second half after he had been handed a rare start.

"This season will be very difficult for us," he said. "For this reason we have to put 150 per cent in, 100 per cent won't be enough.

"The performance of the whole team was bad. Not one or two players. Why do we have to speak about Batshuayi and not other players? It is normal to be angry after a bad performance, but every player had a bad performance."

After a difficult start to the past season, Chelsea won 13 consecutive league games to inspire them to the title, and Gary Cahill recognises they require a similar sequence of results.

"We need to go on a run," he said. "It's early and if you can be in and around by January time, then it's a decent position.

"City are blowing teams away."

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