April 21, 2018 / 5:29 PM / 10 months ago

Zaha debate rages as Palace accuse Watford of targeting striker

(Reuters) - The debate that has raged all season over Wilfried Zaha’s penalty area antics flared again at Watford when Crystal Palace’s flying winger had two appeals turned down, one of which led to a booking for simulation.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Watford v Crystal Palace - Vicarage Road, Watford, Britain - April 21, 2018 Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha reacts after being shown a yellow card for simulation Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

Palace felt they were particularly unlucky not to be awarded a spot-kick for his second shout in the goalless draw at Vicarage Road when Watford defender Adrian Mariappa appeared to upend him, and manager Roy Hodgson said that the Ivorian was being unfairly labelled a diver.

“He’s given attention he doesn’t deserve. When the rumours spread that he’s a cheat and not the honest player he is, the crowd are led by that,” said Hodgson.

“I thought he kept his head and kept taking chances. Hopefully I’m not being one-eyed, but I think he would have got the penalty in another game.”

Zaha has won eight penalties for Palace over the past three seasons and now received eight cautions for simulation after referee Chris Kavanagh decided he had gone down too easily under Mariappa’s challenge.

Although TV replays suggested Zaha had been unlucky, the incident is unlikely to stem the storm of social media abuse that frequently comes Zaha’s way, with TV pundits and opposing managers also criticising him for going down too easily.

Earlier this month, Zaha gave an interview to counter the criticism, pointing out that “unless you are able to run that fast you probably don’t understand”.

On Saturday, Watford were wary of this threat and set about trying to stop him by whatever means they could.

“I’ve not seen the penalty shout back but I’m sure Watford targeted Zaha a little bit, as teams do,” said Palace midfielder James McArthur.

“It was a massive point. We weren’t good enough in the first half and we upped the pressure. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the goal.

“We want to win every game and we’ll go to the next one focussed. We need to keep fighting for every single point.”

Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Toby Davis

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