Zaha turns on style to delight Hodgson as Palace hit back
Crystal Palace 1 Newcastle Utd 1
Wilfried Zaha arrived in style in his gleaming grey Lamborghini. The engine roared as he approached, the hazard lights flashed, the metalwork sparkled. He revved the engine to make sure heads were turned in his direction.
It was an eye-catching entrance by a player whose talent is impossible to ignore. As he swung into the car park with a rumble of hidden horsepower, two Crystal Palace supporters looked at each other and smiled. It was a look that said everything will be OK, Wilf is here.
Zaha is a sports car of a player. Quick, flash and beautiful to look at in motion. He is a luxury item shining in the gloom of a relegation battle in south London.
Had Newcastle not had to deal with him, they may well have won this ferocious tussle with a team sitting directly above them in the table, instead of clinging on for a point.
There are other fine players currently employed by teams outside the top six, but you would have a tough job convincing anyone they are superior to Zaha. He is mesmerising at times, impossible to tie down.
His acceleration is blistering, his speed over the ground, with or without the ball, enough to stretch the most organised backline. His ability to twist and turn causes havoc in every defence that comes up against him.
Even when he is not at his best, Zaha is capable of turning a game around. He is a player who makes things happen.
Without him, Palace would not have troubled Newcastle's defence often enough to get back into this contest, but if he stays fit, Palace will surely survive.
"He was excellent in the second half," said his manager Roy Hodgson.
"He was quiet in the first half, but in the second half we saw the Wilf Zaha we've been seeing for the last two or three months, really coming alive. But I don't see this as two points dropped. Teams at the top of the table drop points.''
On the face of things, it was a better point for Newcastle, away from home, against a relegation rival. However, after a composed first-half display, in which they took the lead through Mo Diame, they looked bedraggled and desperate for the final whistle.
Zaha did that to them, even if it was Luka Milivojevic who scored Palace's goal, from the penalty spot, after Ciaran Clark was a little unfortunate to be penalised for pulling the shirt of Christian Benteke when the Belgian striker was also pushing him away. (© Daily Telegraph, London)