Watford 0-0 Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha booked for simulation in eventful stalemate
By Michael Hincks
Last Updated: 21/04/18 6:33pm
Wilfried Zaha saw two penalty claims turned down as Watford and Crystal Palace edged towards Premier League safety after playing out an eventful 0-0 on Saturday.
The Palace forward was booked for simulation following the second penalty shout, having gone down under pressure from Adrian Mariappa (63).
Meanwhile, the woodwork was struck three times at Vicarage Road, with Watford striker Stefano Okaka heading against the bar before Palace duo Luka Milivojevic and James Tomkins suffered similar misfortune after the break.
The point lifts Palace into 15th, six points clear of 18th-placed Southampton who have a game in hand, while Watford move onto 38 points - nine clear of the drop zone.
Watford: Karnezis (6), Mariappa (6), Cathcart (6), Kabasele (6), Holebas (6), Capoue (6), Doucoure (6), Hughes (7), Pereyra (7), Okaka (6), Deeney (7)
Subs: Richarlison (6), Femenia (6), Gray (6)
Crystal Palace: Hennessey (6), Ward (5), Tomkins (7), Sakho (6), Van Aanholt (5), McArthur (6), Milivojevic (7), Cabaye (6), Loftus-Cheek (5), Townsend (6), Zaha (5)
Subs: Benteke (6)
Man of the match: James Tomkins
Watford were dominant in the first half, and almost took the lead after four minutes when Okaka's header cannoned off the crossbar following Troy Deeney's cross.
The hosts almost went ahead in fortuitous circumstances, but goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey got down well to keep out a poor Deeney attempt which ricocheted off Joel Ward and headed towards goal.
A quiet half from Palace ended with calls for a penalty, but referee Chris Kavanagh waved away the claims after Zaha went down after tangling with Christian Kabasele - an already-booked Abdoulaye Doucoure made his feelings clear when rushing over to confront the forward.
Watford made three changes, and switched to 4-4-2, with Stefano Okaka starting up front and both Jose Holebas and Christian Kabasele coming into the defence. Sebastian Prodl was out - Daryl Janmaat and Kiko Femenia dropped to bench.
Crystal Palace named the same XI that beat Brighton 3-2 last weekend, meaning Christian Benteke was among the subs once more as Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha started in attack.
After the break, Milivojevic's free-kick from a narrow angle hit the post, but attention soon turned to a contentious decision down the other end.
It came as Zaha - who was fouled five times in the match - was grounded from Mariappa's attempted tackle. Kavanagh opted to book the Ivorian, though replays suggested there was a touch from the Watford defender.
A fierce affair rumbled on, with James Tomkins heading against the post for Palace before a late flurry of cards saw the match end with eight bookings - Ward perhaps the most fortunate to escape a second yellow following a poor challenge on Jose Holebas.
- Watford are without a win in six Premier League games (D2 L4), after winning three of the four before that (L1).
- Crystal Palace have picked up eight points in their last five Premier League games (W2 D2 L1), after accruing just two from their previous seven in the competition.
- The Hornets have failed to score in four of their last six top-flight games, netting just three goals in total in that period.
- Watford equalled their season-best tally for first-half shots in the Premier League in this game (11), but only mustered three in the second period.
Man of the match - James Tomkins
Crystal Palace survived a first-half onslaught from Watford and could have nicked a winner after the break. Tomkins was central to Palace's resolute display in defence, making 18 clearances - 13 more than any other player on the pitch - while he came within a whisker of heading the visitors to victory when his header struck the post.
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Ruben Loftus-Cheek had more touches than any other Crystal Palace player (63), but was far from a standout figure at Watford, recording a pass completion of 72.5% from 40 passes in total.
Javi Gracia: "It was a good first half from us - one of the best this season. We created many chances but we didn't take them.
"In the second half, they made more control and created chances to score. We tried until the end but could not do it.
"It did not surprise us. They changed a little with [the Christian] Benteke [substitution], but the first half was very demanding as we pressed very aggressively.
Roy Hodgson: "I think he [Zaha] is being unfairly treated. But the fact is, reputations are given to you from people outside of your control. Other managers sometimes come in with opinions and that's been picked up by the mass media - then it gets blown up.
"I can assure people, if they've got any faith in my judgement and ability to see football relatively calmly, he never looks to dive in the penalty area - never - because he wants to score goals, there's no doubt about that.
"He will get unbalanced. I thought in the first half the referee made the right decision when he almost got through but was unbalanced and went down. He didn't go for the penalty. He was just unbalanced. The referee dealt with that very well.
"The second one, when people see it they will have their opinions, but they will have to forgive me for thinking that it was a penalty."
Watford travel to Wembley to face Tottenham on Monday Night Football on April 30 - live on Sky Sports Premier League. Meanwhile, Crystal Palace are in 3pm action next Saturday at home to Leicester.