Tuesday 24 April 2018

Wayne Hennessey heroics make him Palace first choice and boost his Euro chances

Wayne Hennessey has established himself as Crystal Palace's first-choice goalkeeper
Wayne Hennessey has established himself as Crystal Palace's first-choice goalkeeper

Wayne Hennessey's preparations for Euro 2016 have been strengthened by Alan Pardew revealing he now considers the Welshman to be Crystal Palace's first-choice goalkeeper.

Hennessey, who is expected to play each of Wales' Group B fixtures against Slovakia, England and Russia in France next summer, began the season as a substitute behind Alex McCarthy.

McCarthy's chance came after an injury to the long-serving Julian Speroni, who has been at the club since 2004, effectively making Hennessey appear to be Pardew's third-choice, but an injury to McCarthy presented the Welshman with a run in the first team during which he has consistently impressed.

In the final stages of Palace's 1-0 Premier League defeat of Southampton on Saturday, Hennessey produced an exceptional save when Shane Long was through on goal, having previously kept the score at 0-0 in the first half when tipping over Steven Davis' close-range header.

His memorable performance followed another at Everton in which he also impressed Pardew, who had previously made no secret of his satisfaction at having such strength in depth among his goalkeepers, and who said: "The other two (McCarthy and Speroni) have been fit for a while.

"So (Hennessey's) cemented his position with a couple of great performances this week. He's very focused on the Euros at the end of the season for Wales, it's a terrific week for him.

"We had a big debt to Wayne there, to just stand tall and stick a leg out and make it difficult for Shane Long. It was a scary moment, I have to say, I thought he was going to score.

"It was a shame because it was the only mistake the two centre-halves made all day, they both went for the same ball, they got beat in the air, and it was literally a one-on-one."

Southampton started with Paulo Gazzaniga in goal, owing to injuries to first-choice Fraser Forster and on-loan Maarten Stekelenburg.

He similarly produced some impressive saves, and manager Ronald Koeman said he may yet retain his first-team place.

"Depending on how Maarten is coming back," Koeman said. "I don't know now if he is available for next week.

"We know Paulo is a goalkeeper with a future and he played well with the Under-21s and that was the reason that we put Paulo in and not Kelvin (Davis).

"He played last week, he showed good training sessions and it showed. He was on a high level as a goalkeeper."

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