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October 26 2020 9.08pm

Zaha highlights importance on return

October 20 2017

Wilfried Zaha (Photo: Ramzi Musallam)

Wilfried Zaha (Photo: Ramzi Musallam)

It might have taken a pain-staking run of eight games, but Crystal Palace's first win of the season came in some style, writes John Winter.

After scoring their first goal of the campaign, the club also secured their first points by beating the reigning Premier League champions Chelsea.

Among the positives to take from the 2-1 victory was the impressive return to action of Wilfried Zaha, who scored the winning goal in his first start since the opening day of the season. The winger has been sidelined with injury for the past couple of months, and his return to the starting line-up was a major reason behind Palace's victory.

Forced to play as a makeshift centre forward due to the club's ongoing injury crisis, Zaha was a threat to Chelsea's defence from the very first whistle. After Tiemoue Bakayoko had drawn the visitors level after Cesar Azplicueta's own goal had given Palace the lead, Zaha popped up just before the break to score what turned out to be the winner.

Latching on to a perfectly-weighted Mamadou Sakho pass, Zaha danced through a couple of weak Chelsea challenges before slotting the ball past Thibaut Courtois, proving just why he could be the difference between survival and relegation this season.

Roy Hodgson didn't take long to discover just why Frank de Boer's time at the club was so fleeting. A squad ill-prepared for a gruelling Premier League season is already down to the bare bones, and for the first seven games of the season it became obvious this was going to be a tough campaign for the club.

Despite being as short as 11/10 with the latest football betting to go down, this team showed against Chelsea that they could well still turn this season around. While getting some of their injured strikers back on the field will be crucial, having a fit-again Zaha means Palace now have a genuine match-winner again, and the hope will be the team can build on this win and go on something of a run.

via GIPHY

While Chelsea were clearly not at their best, Palace weren't lucky to pick up their first win of the season. Hodgson's team showed enough ability and determination to give the manager and the fans hope that this campaign might not be as dismal as many predicted after such a grim start to the season.

With Christian Benteke coming back from his knee injury, the hope will be that those goals that have eluded the club for the opening seven games of the year won't be between now and the end of the season. As long as Hodgson is allowed to strengthen this squad in January, especially in regards his striking options, a mid-table finish - something that looked impossible a couple of weeks ago - could be a genuine possibility.

Palace fans won't be getting carried away, especially after experiencing seven goalless defeats, but the feeling around the club is much more positive than it has been. With the eminently more beatable duo of Newcastle and West Ham up next in the league, things could be looking a much better by the end of the month.

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