Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe changes his tune on ‘outstanding’ Wilfried Zaha after Crystal Palace draw

Howe seemed to insinuate Zaha had dived during their meeting in December, but was full of praise for the winger after their 2-2 draw on Saturday at the Vitality Stadium

Wilfried Zaha celebrates after scoring for Crystal Palace against Bournemouth
Wilfried Zaha celebrates after scoring for Crystal Palace against Bournemouth

Eddie Howe changed his tune on Wilfried Zaha after his Bournemouth side denied the Crystal Palace winger and his team precious Premier League points with a late equaliser.

Back in December at Selhurst Park, Zaha won two penalties – the second of which Christian Benteke missed as the game ended in a 2-2 draw – and Howe urged officials to revisit both incidents, comments some translated as claims that the Ivorian is a diver.

On Saturday at the Vitality Stadium Zaha was again involved in a penalty shout, after clashing with Simon Francis in the box, but was denied a spot-kick by the referee Jon Moss. Zaha picked himself up and went on to put Palace 2-1 up before Josh King’s 89th minute equaliser earned Bournemouth a draw.

After the game Howe was coy on his previous comments on Zaha and the penalty shout. “I don’t remember the penalty incident and I can’t remember what I said [in December] so I probably won’t comment on that,” he said, before going on to praise the winger.

“Zaha is an outstanding player,” he continued. “I really do believe he’s one of the best in his position in the Premier League and I think he’s always going to cause you problems if you allow him to get the ball, and he had the ball probably too many times for my liking in dangerous positions.

“I thought we defended those situations pretty well in the main. He scored the goal and he caused other problems for us so we’re pleased in the main with how we dealt with him.”

King’s late equaliser was the 18th point Bournemouth had earned from losing positions this season – the most of any team – and the third game in a row they have scored late to earn points, to make it just two defeats in their last 15 matches.

Howe believes his team’s conditioning is key to their late resurgences. “I do believe fitness is a key component to our success. We work really hard on maintaining the boys’ fitness levels, making sure that we’re able to go strong late in games and it’s really important you have that confidence to do that.”

While Roy Hodgson kept all his substitutes on the bench, Howe brought on King and Lys Mousset and both scored to leave the Cherries boss with a selection headache for the final five games of the season and his team 10 points above the drop.

“I’ll take the headache all day long,” he added. “It’s great for the team that you’ve got players that can make a difference on your bench, it’s huge for us that I can turn to those talented individuals that can come on and change the game.

“It’s a massive point and I said the same about Watford [last week]. To come back and get that point was huge and this point today just keeps Palace below us and that’s so important that you don’t lose to the teams around you. Who knows how important it could be at the end of the season.”

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