Roy Hodgson believes Etienne Capoue was lucky to avoid a red card for his challenge on Wilfried Zaha in the early stages of Watford’s history-making defeat of Crystal Palace.
Capoue, the midfielder, helped the Hornets continue their 100 per cent start to the season, setting up the opening goal as the Vicarage Road outfit won their first three matches in a top flight campaign for the first time in their history.
However, the 30-year-old was lucky to still be on the pitch when he set Roberto Pereyra up for that 53rd minute strike, having been cautioned by referee Anthony Taylor just four minutes after kick-off for a poor challenge on Zaha, the Palace forward.
Capoue appeared to rake his studs down the back of Zaha’s leg, with Graeme Souness saying at half-time the referee ‘either bottled it [the decision] or doesn’t understand football’.
Zaha appeared to be shaken by the tackle, with the 25-year-old doing little throughout the match until he popped up 12 minutes from time to halve the deficit with a finely taken solo goal.
Hodgson, the Palace manager, believes the challenge did affect his key player, and the former England manager told talkSPORT Capoue was lucky to avoid a red card for his tackle.
“I think the challenge in the first-half affected him [Zaha] a little bit more than I realised,” Hodgson said. “It was a booking, but having seen it again on TV and everyone telling me about it I think the player, Capoue, was quite lucky there to not get a more serious sanction.
“I suppose when you have that type of scrape down the back of your leg it puts a few doubts in your mind for a while.
“But he got over it, and towards the end he was playing much better.”
Palace pressed for an equaliser after Zaha made it 2-1 with just over 10 minutes remaining, and Joel Ward, the defender, sent a free header wide from just yards out in the sixth minute of injury time.
He really should have scored to pull the tie level, and Hodgson feels the Eagles would have grabbed a deserved equaliser if the match had continued for slightly longer.
He continued: “As I say, if the game had gone on for another five or 10 minutes I think we might well have got that equaliser, and, had we done so, I don’t think anyone would have really complained.
“To go away with a point after our performance would not have been anything we need to apologise for.”