Wilfried Zaha sweats over potential retrospective ban after Crystal Palace blow the chance to beat Bournemouth

Just as Everton’s Oumar Niasse was banned retrospectively for diving against Palace last month, so Zaha could find himself sanctioned for clearly initiating contact with Asmir Begovic

Begovic felt Zaha went down too easily
Begovic felt Zaha went down too easily

On Saturday night, Wilfried Zaha asked the Crystal Palace fans via Instagram to desist from abusing Christian Benteke for his insistence on taking the injury-time penalty he then missed.

“Anger is useless unless you channel it into positive energy and go again… in football anyway,” Zaha wrote after Palace drew a game they should have won and slipped back to the foot of the Premier League as a consequence.

In private, Zaha should have been thanking his fellow striker for taking the heat away from his own antics during the game.

Just as Everton’s Oumar Niasse was banned retrospectively for diving against Palace last month, so Zaha could find himself sanctioned for clearly initiating contact with Bournemouth keeper Asmir Begovic to win Palace’s first penalty of the game.

It would be surprising if the independent panel set up to consider cases of simulation did not at least consider Zaha’s conduct, even if Roy Hodgson dismissed it.

Hodgson said: “Wilf doesn’t dive. That is the simple fact of the matter. He doesn’t dive.”

The refusal of the Bournemouth players to condemn Zaha’s actions as those of a cheat may also work in his favour.

Clearly irritated by both penalty decisions made by referee Kevin Friend, Begovic contented himself with the knowledge that his save of Benteke’s injury-time effort had secured an element of justice for his side.

Begovic said: “I thought both penalties were incredibly harsh. The first one was a bang-bang play, but I felt that the ball came through and hit me on the arm.

“Wilfred just sort of ran into me a little bit. I didn’t make any attempt to go for him and I didn’t know what else I was supposed to do.

“Of course, he’s going to try and gain an advantage as clever strikers do, but it’s one of those difficult ones. I thought the referee saw it, but he interpreted it differently.”

Affirming Zaha’s spirit of fair play could be viewed as a case of Hodgson fighting a battle on his player’s behalf that he felt he could win.

Yet the former England manager knew that defending Benteke in public would alienate both the rest of his squad and the Palace supporters who will not easily forgive the Belgian for putting his own need for a goal above the desperate need for points of his team.

Hodgson said: “You cannot use it as an excuse that Christian wanted to get off the mark for the season. The fact is a lot of other players would like to get off the mark.

James Tomkins would like to get off the mark for the season. The goalkeeper would like to score a goal. You cannot use that one.

“Knowing him not terribly well, Christian will be the sort of guy who will be thinking: ‘I need to make this up, I didn’t score that penalty that I really wanted to take, so I owe you one.’

“Who knows? Maybe we will win a game by the odd goal and it will be some piece of magic from him and all this will be forgotten.”

Benteke missed a last-gasp penalty kick

Add in Mamadou Sakho’s calf injury which could cost the defender up to six games in the next three weeks and this draw could prove more costly than most to Palace.

Lost amid all of the strands of the controversy was the brilliance of Jermain Defoe’s second goal of the game for Bournemouth which cancelled out Luka Milivojevic’s penalty and Scott Dann’s tap-in for Palace and evoked memories of Marco van Basten’s classic volley in the 1988 European Championship.

Defoe said: “Van Basten's goal was better than mine because he took it on the volley as it dropped out of the sky, but I'm happy to be mentioned in the same breath as a world-class player like him.”

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