Roy Hodgson raised a glass of red wine to toast his Crystal Palace players after they finally put an end to one of the most miserable runs in the annals of top-flight English football in unlikely fashion on Saturday.
Palace, goalless and pointless all season, had been given little chance of breaking their duck against champions Chelsea but, against all odds, scored their first league goal in 731 minutes of trying and eked out a deserved 2-1 victory at Selhurst Park.
“I don’t drink an awful lot these days. Red wine isn’t the best thing to drink if you want to keep your calories low,” Hodgson, the much-travelled 70-year-old former England manager, smiled afterwards.
“But I’ll enjoy a glass tonight because I enjoyed watching my boys play well and I’m proud of their performance.
“It was really enjoyable. I have just told the players they really deserve to drink in that victory — we were playing the champions of England, a team with fantastic quality.
“I thought we came off the field deserving our victory.”
Hodgson, who had overseen his first win at Palace at the fourth attempt, might have made a special toast to Wilfried Zaha, the gifted winger who offered glimpses of happier days ahead for the Eagles with his match-winning display.
It was not just Zaha’s fine finish for the winner just before halftime that impressed Hodgson but also the way he kept battling deep into stoppage time in his first match since the knee injury he suffered on the opening day of the season.
Zaha’s contribution was decisive after Cesar Azpilicueta had turned the ball into his own net in the 11th minute and Tiemoue Bakayoko had levelled for the visitors.
“Wilf’s pace and his desire to go past people with and without the ball, those are incredible qualities,” said Hodgson, praising the way Zaha had linked up with England winger Andros Townsend throughout.
“All of us coaches want centre-forwards that can do that and I was most impressed that he played 97 minutes — if you include the stoppage time — and yet still he was running at the end.
“He chased a pretty hopeless-looking ball at the end and we got something from it. That meant we kept the ball in their half of the field and those are the things you really appreciate as a coach.
“They don’t always get noticed but he will get plenty of pats on the back from me.”