Thursday 27 July 2017

Furious Allardyce stirs up Hornets' nest as mascot mocks Zaha for diving

Watford 1 Crystal Palace 1

Would you risk that amount of money on Crystal Palace?
Would you risk that amount of money on Crystal Palace?

Darren Witcoop

Sam Allardyce saw his return to the dugout with Crystal Palace overshadowed by a bizarre row between Wilfried Zaha and Watford's mascot.

Allardyce, who lost the England job after just 67 days in charge, called for his old employer to act after the Palace winger was taunted by Harry the Hornet, who performed a mock dive at the final whistle.

Zaha, who had earlier been booked for diving, had to be ushered away by the Palace backroom staff.

"The Premier League and FA can look at that and do what they want to do," said Allardyce.

"But it's up to Watford to sort that out, really. It could have made for the wrong reaction. The mascot is out of order, isn't he?

"If someone is diving, they don't get that angry, but I'm more concerned about my team and the overall performance."

Watford's Miguel Britos (left) and Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha (right) battle for the ball. Photo: Paul Harding/PA Wire
Watford's Miguel Britos (left) and Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha (right) battle for the ball. Photo: Paul Harding/PA Wire

Watford manager Walter Mazzarri played down the incident, saying: "Let's all laugh together about this. Everything doesn't have to be a drama."

As for his return to management, Allardyce added: "I don't enjoy games very much as a manager, never have, but it's great to be back in this league, in the top league in the world, and competing against teams with outstanding players and managers.

"I was excited, a bit nervous obviously, but it's nice to be back. Hopefully I can continue to do for Palace where I left off at Sunderland.

"We've had one clean sheet all season and that's the main priority. We've got a team that creates chances. I need to make sure those chances turn good performances into three points.

Crystal Palace's Jason Puncheon and Yohan Cabaye in action with Watford's Etienne Capoue. Photo: Paul Childs/Action Images via Reuters
Crystal Palace's Jason Puncheon and Yohan Cabaye in action with Watford's Etienne Capoue. Photo: Paul Childs/Action Images via Reuters

"At least we've picked up a point. It should have been three. That's pretty encouraging for me, to be saying I'm disappointed for throwing two points away."

Allardyce, who has never been relegated from the Premier League, would have seen enough at Vicarage Road to believe that his CV will remain unblemished.

Record signing Yohan Cabaye, who has been a shadow of the player that Palace paid £10m for since his move from Newcastle 18 months ago, put the Eagles ahead on 26 minutes.

Andros Townsend, another big-money signing overlooked by Alan Pardew in recent weeks, threaded the ball through for Cabaye to slot it home after he had been played onside by Younes Kaboul.

That Watford were all at sea was no surprise, after Daryl Janmaat was stretchered off inside three minutes and Valon Behrami limped off with just 14 minutes played.

Watford had lost five out of their last seven games and were slow and ponderous.

That also summed up Sebastian Prodl in the 36th minute. The Austrian defender's back-pass was never going to reach goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, who ended up tripping Christian Benteke for a clear penalty.

Benteke stepped up, but placed it weakly to Gomes' left and the goalkeeper sprang low to push it out. It was the ninth spot-kick the Brazilian had saved from the last 30 he has faced, but none will have been easier.

Benteke has now missed two penalties this season and it was to prove costly for Palace, who haven't kept a clean sheet away from home since St Stephen's Day last year.

Watford were poor, but they were gifted a lifeline on 71 minutes when Damien Delaney needlessly pulled back Prodl.

Troy Deeney, who had been stuck on 99 goals since October, having gone 796 minutes without a goal, stepped up and showed Benteke how to do it by thumping his penalty down the middle to bring up his century of goals for Watford.

Allardyce made attacking changes as he tried to claim the victory. Instead, the only thing of note was a booking for Zaha after he was deemed to have dived in search of another penalty.

© Independent News Service.

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