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How Bakary Sako’s match-winning performance secured Roy Hodgson’s first victory at Crystal Palace

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Bakary Sako

New Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson was able to toast to his first win in charge of the Eagles on Tuesday night, as Bakary Sako’s 13th minute header proved enough to see off a Huddersfield side that had dismantled the Eagles at Selhurst Park 3-0 on the opening day, to progress to the Fourth Round (Round of 16) of the Carabao Cup.

Hodgson re-deployed Sako, who is a winger by trade, as a makeshift striker on his recall to the side, and it was he he brought the goods for a Palace team, whose first win of the season in all competitions will no doubt provide further hope of improvement under Hodgson’s reign, as well as provide a much needed morale booster amongst the club’s supporters.

It didn’t take long for Sako to get off the mark either. Palace hadn’t registered a goal in any game since their Carabao Cup Second Round win over Ipswich, but it came soon enough here when Lee Chung-Yong’s shot was deflected wide for a corner, before Andros Townsend’s inswinging ball met the head of the unmarked Sako, who directed the ball across the goalkeeper and into the top left corner of the Town goal. Finally, a goal for Eagles fans to celebrate, and Sako could enjoy his first domestic goal in just over two years.

Buoyed by the early goal, Palace set about putting on a show for the 6,607 supporters in attendance, Sako involved in a slick three-man passing move with Lee Chung-Yong and Andros Townsend, which saw Jeffrey Schlupp direct an effort straight at Huddersfield goalkeeper Joel Coleman. The half ended with Townsend firing an ambitious effort from the edge of the box wide of the left post.

That was almost as good as it got for Palace as Huddersfield came out after the break rejuvenated from their talk with boss David Wagner, and threatening to get back into the contest. Their profligacy in front of goal ultimately proved costly, however, added also to an impressive performance from Palace’s recalled goalkeeper and captain for the night Julian Speroni, and Sako was on hand to make what threatened to be a disappointing night even worse for the Terriers.

Andros Townsend was amongst the providers for his Malian teammate once more, his 25 yard shot taking an almighty ricochet to go wide of the goal, before his resulting corner was headed back across goal toward Sako, whose pinpoint header looked destined for the bottom left corner before being blocked off the line by Aaron Mooy.

In all, the Mali international proved more than a handful for Palace’s West Yorkshire opponents, and the Eagles can now celebrate their second win of the season in all competitions, their first victory under Roy Hodgson, as well as another poignant milestone: the game marked the return of defender Papy Souaré, introduced at half-time by Hodgson as a substitute, making his first appearance for the club since being involved in a car accident 12 months ago.

Scott is a Port Vale fan who writes regularly for The Boot Room as a freelancer. He is a fan of several sports but most of his experience in journalism comes from football and volleyball. He has produced several works on major Championships for both the FIVB and CEV in the volleyball world out in Switzerland, and is currently studying for a BA Hons in Modern Languages at the University of Oxford.

Crystal Palace

Three potential England replacements for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

The Liverpool midfielder has been ruled out of the summer’s World Cup.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

It looked bad for Liverpool and England when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was stretchered off during the first half of the Reds’ game against AS Roma in the Champions League and their worst fears were confirmed on Wednesday.

The 24-year-old has suffered a knee injury, which will keep him out of the rest of the season and this summer’s World Cup.

This is incredibly harsh news to take for the midfielder, who had been playing the best football of his career under Jurgen Klopp.

Last summer, he made a huge career decision as he chose to leave Arsenal to join top-six rivals Liverpool and, in hindsight, it has been a great move for him.

His influence and consistency have stood out from the centre of the park and England would have benefitted from that in Russia.

However, Gareth Southgate needs to readjust quickly and find a suitable alternative to the Liverpool midfielder.

Here are three players that could replace Oxlade-Chamberlain and receive a World Cup call this summer:

Ruben Loftus-Cheek – Crystal Palace

The injury to Oxlade-Chamberlain has opened up an opportunity for Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who will now have a chance of making the plane for Russia.

The midfielder has impressed at Crystal Palace and he delivered an assured performance against Germany on his international debut. Although injuries have hindered his progress since he remains one of the only dynamic midfielders available to Gareth Southgate.

Against Germany, he completed 96.2% of his passes and completed four successful dribbles. There were a lot of people that thought the call came too soon, but he looked at home on the international stage and he will be unknown to a lot of the teams England are due to face.

Oxlade-Chamberlain was going to provide the power and pace in the England midfield. Loftus-Cheek may not be as experienced as the Liverpool man, but he can step up and perform a similar role. If he can finish the season strongly, he will have a great chance of making the squad.

England Training Session And Press Conference

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Jonjo Shelvey – Newcastle United

There are growing calls for the Newcastle United midfielder to be called up by Gareth Southgate and they will only increase with the news of Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury.

Shelvey won’t be able to step into the same role, but he can provide different qualities and could be a worthy selection for England.

Newcastle’s recent surge up the league table have shown Shelvey in a good light and he has been a major reason for his team’s success.

The 26-year-old dictates the game from deep and has a passing range that can’t be matched by any other English player.

Against Arsenal, he was putting his team-mates in on goal at will and there is a place for his skills in the national set-up.

England have a number of quick attacking players and against better teams, Shelvey would provide a good option.

Southgate will need to set his side up to counter-attack and there is no better player to pick out the runs of Raheem Sterling and Jamie Vardy than the Newcastle midfielder.

There are risks to selecting the 26-year-old, but he deserves to be considered for the summer’s tournament.

(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Dele Alli – Tottenham

The Tottenham midfielder is going to go to the World Cup. Nobody can debate that, but he has found himself out of the starting eleven during recent friendly matches.

The injury to Oxlade-Chamberlain may benefit him, as there will now be a midfield position up for grabs.

Alli isn’t as comfortable in a central role as Oxlade-Chamberlain, but his goal threat and intelligent movement means that he could step into the starting eleven and play well.

The 22-year-old has had his critics this season, but a return of eight goals and ten assists in the Premier League underline the quality that he provides to a team.

Southgate will need to make sure Alli knows his defensive responsibilities and that the player carries them out to the letter, as England can’t afford to carry a midfield player.

At the age of 22, this summer could be an opportunity to break out for the Tottenham man.

It would be a risk to start him in a deeper role, but the rewards may be worth it.

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Crystal Palace should swoop for Manchester City’s Yaya Toure on a free

The Ivorian midfielder looks set to leave the Etihad this summer.

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Yaya Toure
Photo: Getty Images

When Manchester City legend Yaya Toure was thrown on to the pitch with 25 minutes to go against Swansea City on Sunday, the City faithful were given a chance to celebrate the wonderful Citizens career of the Ivorian.

It was a perfect cameo for Toure, delivering a pinpoint chipped assist to Gabriel Jesus for City’s fifth goal.

Toure celebrated at the Etihad on the way to his third Premier League title, but he faces an uncertain future as Manchester City are unlikely to offer him a new contract.

The Metro reported that the 34-year-old wishes to remain in the Premier League, and Crystal Palace should seriously consider making a move for Toure.

Palace know all too well the supreme qualities of the midfielder. When Toure made his return from the exile Pep Guardiola imposed on him in November 2016, his first appearance came at Selhurst Park.

(Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

The Ivory Coast international absolutely bossed the show that match, scoring two emphatic goals en route to a 2-1 victory, after three months out of the first team squad. It was a timely reminder of Toure’s unique skills, which would be perfectly suited to Crystal Palace’s style of play.

Roy Hodgson’s side play matches with a high-intensity, all-action swagger, and the coolness and relentless drive of Yaya Toure would slot in seamlessly. Toure would also add an experienced head to the Eagles, with lengthy spells playing for the best teams in the world.

Even though Toure is 34 years old, he still possesses a superb reading of the game and tremendous work rate. He is truly a box-to-box midfielder, running back to snuff out danger one moment, and striding forward and leading the attack the next.

A move to Selhurst Park would suit both sides, as the Ivorian wishes to keep his young family settled in England. Crystal Palace would do brilliantly to acquire the services of the three-time Premier League champion, a transfer that would lead them to the top-half of the top-flight table.

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Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha should resist move away from Selhurst Park

The Ivorian winger has been key for the Eagles this season.

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Wilfried Zaha
Photo: Getty Images

Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha delivered yet another superb performance this weekend, scoring a crucial brace in Palace’s 3-2 win against Brighton.

In typical fashion, following his impressive showing, many have speculated that Zaha is far too good for this Palace team and should depart Selhurst Park in the summer.

However, Zaha should resist such urges and remain at Palace, where he will shine in the spotlight as their main man and bring top-half success to the Eagles.

The most recent rumours in the Times have linked the Ivorian with a switch to Tottenham Hotspur, but his 2013 transfer to Manchester United should prove a convincing deterrent against the move to north London.

Five years ago, Zaha swapped Palace for the allure of United, eager to become a star for the Red Devils. He signed a five-and-a-half-year deal at Old Trafford, but his time in Manchester was an abject failure.

The winger only made two league appearances for United, registering zero goals, before falling out of favour with David Moyes and being loaned out to Cardiff City. Just a season later, he was back at Crystal Palace.

(Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

This big money debacle reveals that Zaha struggles when inserted into a situation where he is not a guaranteed starter. His game thrives off of confidence, trickery, and flair; it is no coincidence his best years have come at Palace, a club that genuinely loves and appreciates him.

And, it seems the feeling is mutual.

Zaha prominently spoke this week about his intense desire to beat Brighton and silence their supporters, illustrating the winger’s cult status and loyalty to the Eagles.

For the 25-year-old, the perfect decision would be to remain at Selhurst Park this summer. Roy Hodgson will be given funds to shape the team in his image, and could easily reproduce his success at Fulham, where he inspired the Whites to a seventh-placed finish and a Europa League final.

With Zaha leading the way as the star man, the ceiling could be the limit next season for the Eagles.

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