Wilfried Zaha announced himself on the big stage last night with a stunning brace that took Crystal Palace to the Championship play-off final courtesy of their bitter rivals Brighton.
“He’s a genius, he’s a wonderful boy and he cares about Crystal Palace. He was the difference. I believe he will be a world-class player.” Ian Holloway
The 20-year-old had not scored in 11 games but a superbly timed run saw him get in front of Wayne Bridge before his diving header crashed into the roof of the net.
And he finished the game off in some style when he turned inside the box and rifled a stunning shot in off the underside of the crossbar.
“I can’t explain it, I’m just glad we’re going to Wembley,” proclaimed a jubilant Zaha to Sky Sports after the full time whistle.
“I’ve got no words to express how I feel right now.
“It means the world to me. I’ve played for Palace for 10 years so doing this for Palace is just perfect for when I leave.”
An academy graduate, Zaha knew how much significance the game against Brighton had for Palace fans. Their bitter rivalry made this fixture one of the biggest in the history of the club and certainly the biggest of Zaha’s career so far – and he delivered emphatically with his performance.
Given that he had only scored once for Palace since signing for Manchester United in January, question marks had been raised over his ability to handle the pressure but those rumours have been swiftly put to bed after his performance against Brighton.
“He’s a genius, he’s a wonderful boy and he cares about Crystal Palace,” said Ian Holloway.
“He was the difference. I believe he will be a world-class player.”
High praise indeed. It seems that anybody who has watched Zaha grow, played alongside him or managed him, has nothing but good things to say about him. That can only be a good thing, right?
“He’s unbelievable. I had the pleasure of enjoying him – his career – here at Palace and I wish him all the best for the future.” Julian Speroni
It really was a stunning performance from Zaha. He endured a tough opening 20 minutes with fierce rivals Brighton adopting a bullish approach to marking him but he shrugged it off and gave their defence a torrid time in the second half, culminating in two goals that sent travelling Palace fans wild.
Fittingly, Zaha will play his last game for the Eagles in Wembley as he looks to give the Palace faithful the best goodbye gift possible.
Maybe Zaha will follow in the footsteps of Nick Powell whose last game for Crewe Alexandra saw him score a stunning 25-yard curler en route to securing their promotion to the Championship.
One thing is for sure – United fans are eagerly anticipating the arrival of Zaha at Old Trafford and if his performance against Brighton is anything to go by, £15 million may well be a steal.