Hodgson sets Benteke target after ending goal drought

Ian Watson

Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson believes Christian Benteke gave the perfect response to last weekend’s penalty blunder in Saturday’s Premier League victory at Leicester.

Our early winner Benteke – who last week defied team orders by taking a penalty, which he missed, in a 2-2 draw against Bournemouth – scored his first goal since May to help the Eagles to a 3-0 win at the 10-man Foxes.

The Belgium striker also set up Wilfried Zaha before Bakary Sako sealed a 3-0 triumph in stoppage time, with Leicester having had Wilfred Ndidi sent off for two yellow cards on his 21st birthday.

It was a first away win of the season for Palace – and their first away goals – and Hodgson was pleased Benteke was able to put the penalty controversy behind him.

“It’s good for him. He was very strong and did the right things after the penalty miss,” Hodgson said. “He held his hands up. Everyone at the club appreciated that.

“We know he’s a quality player. The goal he scored here is the sort of goal he’s going to score. Had it not been for a wonder save by (Kasper) Schmeichel, he would have scored two.

“One thing is for certain – if he keeps getting in good positions, he will score goals. His record at Aston Villa was a goal every two games and it wouldn’t surprise me if he matched that here.”

Benteke, who will miss next weekend’s trip to Swansea after collecting his fifth booking of the campaign, was hugely impressive after opening the scoring with a 19th-minute header.

He laid on a second goal for Zaha five minutes before half-time, and Sako’s injury-time effort from the edge of the box extended Palace’s unbeaten run to seven games.

Hodgson added: “I suppose it was (the best performance of the season) because we won. I though we played very well at Tottenham (on November 5) when we lost 1-0.

“That’s three clean sheets in a row now away from home, which is good and, even more importantly, we’ve killed that hoodoo we seemed to be suffering from that we don’t score goals away from home.”

Ndidi was sent off for two bookable offences in nine minutes, the first for a foul on Ruben Loftus-Cheek and a second for a dive in the area.

Defeat ended the Foxes’ four-game winning run but boss Claude Puel defended making three changes, including benching Shinji Okazaki after he scored twice in Wednesday’s 4-1 win at Southampton.

“It’s not possible to play every two days with the intensity that Shinji made in the last game,” the Frenchman said. “It was a poor performance.

“The red card was harsh. I haven’t seen the video but I think it was two little fouls and it’s harsh to lose a player like that. Wilfred is crucial player for us.”