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Zaha plots course to Wembley glory

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PALACE boss Ian Holloway hailed wingers Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha for doing exactly what he had asked them to do before Monday's play-off second leg against Brighton & Hove Albion – get on the end of a cross and score.

The Eagles' manager hailed his Manchester United-bound hero, saying: "I believe Wilf is going to be a match-winner at the very top level. He wanted to keep playing well for us and you could see that," said Holloway.

"I said to them [Bolasie and Zaha] 'can one of you cross it and can the other one get in behind the full-back'?

"I've been saying that to them and I didn't believe Wilf got in there and won a diving header.

"I thought KG had scored, but he just left the full-back and it was going to take something like that.

"It was a brilliant cross, a brilliant move. Wilf said to me in there 'did you see that'?

"I asked him if he got in behind the defender and scored and he said 'yes', and I said 'well done'."

Holloway was clearly a happy man to have beaten the club's arch-rivals and to have silenced the critics of his side heading into the play-off lottery.

"I'm delighted, we have come to the hardest place ever and we have shown all sorts of character," he said. "Did I doubt my lads? No. Did I doubt myself? No. Others did, but that's their choice.

"I think we have learned from what's been going wrong lately and they showed character and bravery.

"Everyone did their jobs. I'm very, very proud of our football club to come here and win with the atmosphere.

"I thought they were terrific, we beat a very, very good team.

"I'm just starting here, I would love to do something for this football club. Let's have a day out [at Wembley], but we are going to try and win it.

"Watford are a great team, they've got great players and the crowd are excellent as well, but so is ours. We are going to have a wonderful day out, if we win."

The Eagles made a bright start with Jonny Williams making a surging run into the box, while Owen Garvan's long-range effort was flicked on by Aaron Wilbraham and wide of the post.

Julian Speroni then had to be extremely brave when Leonardo Ulloa found himself through on goal but the custodian raced out to smother at his feet.

And moments later the goalkeeper made a flying stop to deny Will Buckley on the right side of the box after Zaha lost control of the ball.

Then following a Palace corner, a ball was lumped upfield towards Buckley, and after holding up play, he fed Dean Hammond who eventually drove a fierce effort inches wide.

Garvan then tested Kuszczak from range, before Speroni was called upon again to deny Andrea Orlandi's effort on the left side of the box.

Palace were close to taking the lead five minutes before the break when Zaha's low cross was deflected towards the bottom corner but Matthew Upson managed to clear the danger.

But, just minutes into the second half, Palace should have taken the lead.

Zaha broke from his own half and found himself backed up with Wilbraham and Williams, and he decided to play in the latter, who was through on goal but he dragged his shot inches wide of the post.

The boss made changes on the hour mark with Andre Moritz and Yannick Bolasie coming on for Garvan and Williams, but then Brighton went extremely close with two back-to-back chances through substitute Ashley Barnes.

Speroni denied the striker with the first, producing a superb save from close range, tipping the ball onto the crossbar.

Then, from the following corner, Barnes' goal-bound header was brilliantly cleared off the line by the outstanding Dean Moxey.

However, in the 69th-minute, Bolasie cut the ball back onto his right foot on the left flank before curling in a fantastic ball for Zaha to race in and power home an unstoppable header past Kuszczak.

And Wilbraham had two chances to put the game to bed, one from a free header following a corner and then driving a shot inches past the post.

But then came another moment of brilliance from Zaha, who made sure of a play-off final date with Watford on May 27, when he scored his second of the match after turning Gordon Greer inside the box and powering home via the underside of the crossbar.

Zaha plots course  to Wembley glory


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