Crystal Palace 2 – 0 Bournemouth. Eberechi Eze praised his freedom under Roy Hodgson after his two goals earned Crystal Palace a win over Bournemouth.
Eze slammed home shortly before half-time, before curling into the top corner following Michael Olise’s fine pass as the Palace number 10 made it 10 league goals this season.
Six of those have come in Hodgson’s eight games in charge since the veteran coach succeeded Patrick Vieira.
“I just feel like I am more free,” Eze said after the game.
“He has given me licence to run at people. Under him I do my best to positively affect the games.”
There was little riding on this match between sides 12th and 14th, safe from Premier League relegation.
However, that did not stop Eze showing again why, when fully fit, he is one of the division’s brightest midfielders.
“Ebs is quality,” Palace defender Joel Ward said. “It’s incredible what he does on the ball – the way he glides over the pitch is mesmerising.
“He’s taking over control of midfield too, and linking up well with the front guys. His future will be very bright.”
Victory ensured Palace completed the league double over Bournemouth, having won 2-0 at Vitality Stadium on 31 December.
That proved to be their final win under Vieira, who was dismissed after they failed to win any of their subsequent 12 top-flight matches.
It was a run which threatened the Eagles’ Premier League status, however their descent was halted by the appointment of Hodgson and five wins from their past eight games.
The question is now whether the 75-year-old, contracted to the end of the season, will extend his second spell at Selhurst Park.
A few weeks ago this game could have been earmarked as a relegation six-pointer. Instead, it was a low-stakes end-of-season meeting between two sides with their top-flight status secure.
Joachim Andersen however appeared unaware Palace have little left to fight for, as he evaded a first-half red card following a lengthy video assistant referee (VAR) check after catching Jefferson Lerma in the face.
“Andersen punched Lerma in the face – Jefferson has a broken nose,” Bournemouth manager Gary O’Neil told Match of the Day.
“It’s difficult on the pitch to see that, but I have no idea how VAR can give it as check complete.”
Palace roused themselves earlier, the quick and skilful wing play of Olise and Wilfried Zaha providing Bournemouth with plenty of problems, before Eze opened the scoring four minutes before the break.
Zaha spun inside, found Andre Ayew who teed up Eze six yards out for the midfielder to slam past Neto.
The second goal was even better. Olise earned his 10th Premier League assist of the season – a new record for a Palace player – as he played a lovely ball to Eze on the left who controlled, cut inside and thumped into the top-right corner.
“They make my life easier – I give them the ball and they do their magic,” Ward said of Palace’s attackers. “The world is Michael’s oyster, he is going to set the bar so high and go on to special things.”
Ward was also full of praise for Hodgson as the inspiration for Palace’s good form. “One of the things is familiarity, the message he brings is clarity to players on the pitch, and freedom to the lads to express themselves which we keep it solid at the back,” he said.
“With Ebs, Michael, Wilf up front, we can hurt teams.”
A worry from this game for Palace is that Zaha could have played his final match for the club after being forced off in the second half with what looked like a hamstring injury.
The Ivorian winger’s contract expires this summer, and the Selhurst Park crowd gave him an ovation as he left the pitch, in case this was Zaha’s 457th and final Palace appearance.
“Zaha felt his hamstring which is worrying, but we won’t know how serious [it is] until he has the scan,” Hodgson told Match of the Day. “Hopefully it will only take a few days rather than a couple of weeks.”
Bournemouth meanwhile have conceded 69 Premier League goals in 2022-23, just one short of their highest figure in 2018-19.
O’Neil has ensured Bournemouth survive this season in relative comfort, but has plenty of work ahead to solve their defensive issues and admitted his team were second best here.
“We were well beaten by the better side today. If we are not at our level this happens to you in Premier League games,” he told Match of the Day. “We dropped levels all over the pitch – it was a really disappointing afternoon.”
Certainly he will be glad to see the back of Palace for some time – this was Bournemouth’s fifth consecutive Premier League defeat against the Eagles.
source – BBC