Roy Hodgson insisted Crystal Palace should have been awarded a penalty in their 0-0 draw at Watford and defended Wilfried Zaha as “anything other than a cheat and a diver”.
Palace’s relegation fears persist after they were largely outplayed at Vicarage Road, where Zaha was booked for diving for the second season in succession.
The forward went down in the first half following a clumsy challenge by Abdoulaye Doucoure, and again in the second amid what appeared minimal contact from Adrian Mariappa and Will Hughes catching him when he was already falling.
It was following the second incident that Zaha was shown a yellow card, and Hodgson said: “I try hard not to be the person who bellyaches about, ‘We should have had this and we should have had that’. But having seen it again it was a pretty clear penalty decision.
“I don’t know that we deserved more of a point from the game because at half-time we could have come in seven goals down.”
The former England boss, whose side are now 15th in the Premier League and six points clear of the relegation zone with three remaining fixtures, is adamant Zaha is no cheat and is being treated unfairly.
He added: “Reputations are a dangerous thing. Who gives them the reputation and where he has suffered badly is where other managers have come in and given the media their version of the story and branded him someone who dives for penalties.
“Of course the more it’s written and spoken about the more the legend will circulate.
“He’s anything other than a cheat and a diver. He’s someone who sometimes is far too desperate to stay on his feet because he wants to score a goal himself.
“I’m afraid a one-man campaign against the injustice that he has suffered from won’t go very far but it’s very unjust the treatment he has.
“We allowed ourselves to be bullied out of too many situations but the good thing is in the second half we began to match them and started to play our football.”