A smiling Roy Hodgson laughed off suggestions he possesses a magic wand after watching his Crystal Palace side deconstruct Leeds at Elland Road.
Palace’s 5-1 win – secured after they fell a goal behind – lifts Hodgson’s team to 12th, six points clear of the bottom three. The 75-year-old has presided over two wins in two games since emerging from retirement to return to Selhurst Park as interim replacement for the sacked Patrick Vieira. Palace had not won in 13 matches before Hodgson arrived.
“It’s a perfect start, training’s been fantastic, the sun’s been shining and it’s nice to be back,” Hodgson said. “The players were good before I came back and now they’re showing it again. I have to enjoy these moments as I know they won’t last forever.”
With the score level at half-time Hodgson demanded “more aggression” from his team. He said: “We had to weather a first-half storm. We were struggling and the players did well to drag themselves through. We were lucky to score before the break but that goal was worth its weight in gold. At half-time we had a talk, we agreed we needed more aggression, the players took our advice on board and the second half was very good in every respect. We’ve got quality, we’re quick, strong and skilful.”
Hodgson had particularly warm words for the “wonderful” Michael Olise after the 21-year-old midfielder created three goals in a stellar second-half display. The industrious Jordan Ayew and the goalkeeper, Sam Johnstone, withwho made several vital early saves, were also singled out for particular praise.
The Leeds interim manager, Javi Gracia, suggested his “soft” players had paid the price for switching off. “I cannot explain what happened; it’s unbelievable,” he said. “We needed to defend set pieces better but we played a very good first half and we could have killed the game.
“After we conceded everything changed. We started the second half very badly. We were soft in so many actions. The first half was very good but something was wrong in the second half; we didn’t keep momentum. If we don’t play at 100% we won’t do well.”
Not that Jesse Marsch’s successor was about to criticise his team in public. “I have belief in my players, I trust them and today we lose together and stay together,” said Gracia, who refused to blame his right-back Luke Ayling for his part in a defensive debacle.
“It’s very disappointing but we have to all learn from this from this hard moment. It’s something we have to accept. We have to keep a positive mentality. This is the situation we have to be strong.
“Today more than ever I want to be closer to my players. We did not keep our levels, we lost our aggression.”