Sport Soccer

Saturday 17 August 2019

Milivojevic is spot-kick king

Newcastle United 0 Crystal Palace 1

Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha (left) and Newcastle United's Fabian Schar battle for the ball. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA
Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha (left) and Newcastle United's Fabian Schar battle for the ball. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA

Independent.ie Sportdesk

Roy Hodgson saluted skipper Luka Milivojevic after watching him fire Crystal Palace to the brink of Premier League safety at Newcastle.

The nerveless Serbian midfielder beat Martin Dubravka from the penalty spot with nine minutes remaining, after Wilfried Zaha had been tripped by DeAndre Yedlin, to clinch a 1-0 win which eased the Eagles to 39 points.

Asked if Milivojevic, who has missed only one of his 11 penalties this season, is as good as any he was worked with, Hodgson replied: "Yes, absolutely, yes. Penalties are technique and mental strength and composure. There are those who might say mental strength and composure are in the same ball park, but certainly you need the technique, but then you also need that mental strength and that ability to compose yourself."

Palace had to withstand significant pressure before Milivojevic got his chance to win the game as Newcastle squandered a series of chances, with leading scorer Salomon Rondon unusually profligate.

Crystal Palace's Luka Milivojevic scores his side's winning goal from the penalty spot. Photo: Scott Heppell/Reuters
Crystal Palace's Luka Milivojevic scores his side's winning goal from the penalty spot. Photo: Scott Heppell/Reuters

However, the visitors defended with real tenacity to secure a seventh league win of the season on the road. Hodgson said: "It was a very important game, hard-fought, but I thought that I could be very, very proud of the team's performance."

Opposite number Rafael Benitez admitted his side's failings in front of goal had cost them, but was as disappointed by the way they were caught on the counter-attack as Zaha won the decisive penalty.

Benitez said: "I think we did enough to deserve three points. We had chances, we were attacking, we were controlling them for a while. We knew that they were dangerous on the counter-attack, but we had control of the game in everything, and we made a mistake and we paid for that."

Benitez's pain was compounded by the loss of defender Florian Lejeune to a potentially serious injury to his left knee, just three months after his return from cruciate ligament damage to the right.

Newcastle United's Jonjo Shelvey (left) and Crystal Palace's Jeffrey Schlupp battle for the ball during the Premier League match at St James' Park. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA
Newcastle United's Jonjo Shelvey (left) and Crystal Palace's Jeffrey Schlupp battle for the ball during the Premier League match at St James' Park. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA

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