Dominic Fifield on 11 December 2017
Christian Benteke has apologised to his Crystal Palace team-mates after wrestling the ball from the side’s regular penalty taker, Luka Milivojevic, and insisting on taking Saturday’s stoppage-time spot-kick against Bournemouth, with his weak attempt duly saved.
The Belgium international, without a goal since May, was denied by Asmir Begovic as Palace slipped back to the bottom of the Premier League. Roy Hodgson and his players were furious at the diversion from protocol, with Milivojevic – who had scored a first-half equaliser from the spot – very much the team’s first-choice penalty taker, but Benteke apologised before training on Monday and will start against Watford on Tuesday attempting to make amends.
“After the game I didn’t say much to him – it was a raw moment and he was disappointed,” said Hodgson. “I have spoken to him today and he has spoken to the rest of the players. I am happy with the way he’s reacted to it, and happy with how he explained that to the rest of the team. He had the courage to talk in front of the rest of the team, and basically apologise for not following instructions.
“Sometimes you don’t need to kick someone when they are down. You just hope the player does what Benteke has done. At the first real opportunity – not in the dressing room afterwards but this morning – he said his piece. That is strong and the correct thing to do: he makes it clear he was wrong and disobeying ranks, and apologises for that, but now he will get on with it. He played very well on Saturday, let’s not forget.”
Palace will seek to add a striker in January with Hodgson also targeting a goalkeeper to challenge Wayne Hennessey and Julián Speroni. Interest has been expressed in Espanyol’s Diego López, 36, who made his loan move a permanent switch from Milan only over the summer. But, having initially suffered from a knee injury, he lost his place to Pau López and has only played twice, in the Copa del Rey, this season.
Scans on Mamadou Sakho’s calf have confirmed the Frenchman suffered a tear against Bournemouth which will rule him out until the new year. “It’s a serious muscle tear in his calf, so it’s weeks not days,” said Hodgson. “We’ll miss him. When you lose a player like that, you can’t be anything other than disappointed and sad.”