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22nd Apr 2018

Wilfried Zaha responds to diving accusations, claiming there is an agenda against him

He could have been awarded two penalties in yesterday's game

Reuben Pinder

He has a reputation, one that he claims is unfair.

Watford and Crystal Palace played out a pretty drab 0-0 draw on Saturday afternoon in true end of the season, nothing to play for fashion. But the game was not without it’s controversial moments.

Palace talisman Wilfried Zaha twice went to ground in the box, but was not awarded a penalty on either occasion. In the first instance, he appears to lose balance after a tug on his shirt, and stumbles to the ground. A bit of pushing and shoving followed, as Abdoulaye Doucouré accused Zaha of diving.

Towards the end of the game, in a crowded penalty area, Zaha was brought down by a late swing of the leg from Adrian Mariappa. Again, no penalty. In fact, this time, he was cautioned for diving. It appeared to be a stonewall penalty, one could argue that a reputation he has developed – rightly or wrongly – over the years had influenced the referee’s decision.

The Ivory Coast international made a guest appearance on Sky Sports’ Goals on Sunday this morning and discussed the constant accusations of diving aimed his way.

“It was definitely a penalty. I was so shocked when the ref told me it was a dive,” Zaha told Ben Shepherd and Chris Kamara.

“What was funny was after the game – even though it makes no difference – was that he [Mariappa] has actually gone ‘I’ll be honest, Wilf, it was actually a pen.

“I was happy that he admitted that, even if I got a yellow card when I shouldn’t have.”

Asked whether he thinks there is an ‘agenda’ against him, he responded: “I feel that there totally is. I see other players dive, but I don’t see people trying to get them banned the way they want to get me banned. I haven’t been banned so I’m clearly not diving.”

Since the start of the 2015/16 season, no player in the Premier League has picked up more yellow cards for simulation than Zaha, who has four to his name.

But since Zaha rejoined Palace in 2014, only one player, Eden Hazard, has been fouled more times in the Premier League.

His style of play draws a lot of fouls, and therefore he goes to ground a lot. It’s essential that referees don’t allow a misconceived reputation to cloud their judgement of individual incidents.