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Zaha’s inane sending off at Spurs has been a long time coming

6:17 PM GMT+4 27/12/2021
Wilfried Zaha
The Crystal Palace attacker often flares up on the pitch, and it is surprising he gets away with it as often as he does

A self-isolating Patrick Vieira was not on the bench on Sunday but, if the Crystal Palace boss had any hair, he would have been pulling it out as half-time approached with his side 2-0 down at Tottenham Hotspur.

Already depleted due to a raft of coronavirus absences, the Frenchman then saw his team’s talisman Wilfried Zaha get sent off in the most ludicrous of circumstances. Knowing he had already been booked 11 minutes earlier, the Ivory Coast attacker’s second yellow must have been frustrating to watch.

While there was an apparent frustration at his side’s concession of two goals in two minutes, what ensued three minutes after Lucas Moura had doubled the hosts’ advantage was unacceptable as it left his team in the lurch for nearly an hour in the eventual 3-0 loss.

It was to their credit, and an upshot of Spurs choosing to pick their moments for the rest of the match, that the game did not run away from the Eagles who now have to go again on Tuesday with cellar-dwelling Norwich City to visit Selhurst Park.

For a side already short on personnel, the energy expended owing to being undermanned was undoubtedly far from ideal. Zaha’s silly behaviour to add to his team’s troubles on a tough afternoon was hard to take but this had been coming.

Watching the wide attacker’s on-field antics can often get exhausting with the inclination to play on the edge often bordering on immature and a tad reckless.

A typical Zaha game sees him complain to the referee from time to time as he simultaneously gets involved in several squabbles with the opposition due to a perceived rough treatment.

Admittedly, there could be greater protection offered by the officials at times but the Ivorian’s reactions to seemingly standard fouls seem exaggerated and often exacerbate the situation.

Thus, it is surprising the hothead has been sent off on only two occasions in the Premier League, with the former coming nearly three years back in January 2019 in Palace’s game at Southampton.

There had been a flashpoint between James Ward-Prowse and Zaha after the latter flared up following Andre Marriner did not award a free-kick to the attacker. An overblown altercation ensued and the forward was booked for his involvement.

Riled up, the Ivory Coast winger sarcastically applauded the referee, precipitating a second yellow card inside a minute.

This is pretty customary behaviour from the ex-Manchester forward who always seems on the shortest of fuses when he is on the pitch.

Vieira’s stand-in Osian Roberts, despite appearing stunned in the aftermath of the dismissal, did not criticise the West African post-match.

“Obviously we’re disappointed,” Roberts said after the defeat. “It made it such a difficult afternoon for us after a bright start, we felt. We were comfortable with the start we had.

“It’s a difficult place to come at the best of times, especially with the form that they are in at home. In the second half, we showed a lot of character and discipline to make sure they didn’t run away with it.

“The situation is as it is. We got on with it the best we can, and we didn’t want to make any excuses.”

Former Crystal Palace forward Ian Wright did not quite hold back in his assessment of the situation, censuring the winger for his actions at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

“When you’re on a yellow card, you shouldn’t be doing this,” Wright said on Match of the Day. “At this stage, he’s 29 now, he’s the talisman for Palace and he’s getting himself sent off like that.

“It just seems very frustrating for Palace fans that he’s still getting sent off in that kind of situation.”

The firebrand’s rash conduct leaves his team in an even tougher position on Tuesday than they already were owing to the raft of absences.

It will further rankle that Zaha’s absence against Norwich was avoidable, but the Eagles will now have to be without their star man as they look to improve on a run that has seen them win only one of their last five games against the Canaries.

Indeed, if Boxing Day’s incident does not prompt a change in the West African, nothing will.