Football: Crystal Palace's Zaha in fresh diving row in Watford stalemate

Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha applauds fans after the match.
Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha applauds fans after the match.PHOTO: REUTERS

WATFORD, United Kingdom (AFP) - Wilfried Zaha was involved in a fresh diving storm after the Crystal Palace star was booked for simulation in Saturday’s (Aprl 21) 0-0 draw at Watford.

Zaha has been accused of diving several times this season and the Ivory Coast winger once again found himself in the spotlight for alleged gamesmanship at Vicarage Road.

He angered Watford when he tumbled theatrically in a failed bid to win a penalty following Abdoulaye Doucoure’s first-half challenge.

Zaha escaped a booking for that incident but when he fell again in the Watford penalty area, this time after an Adrian Mariappa tackle, referee Chris Kavanagh finally produced a yellow card.

The Palace player has been a hate figure to Watford fans since winning the controversial penalty that settled a Championship play-off final between the two clubs in 2015.

Last season, Watford mascot Harry the Hornet mocked Zaha by diving in front of him at the end of a league match at Vicarage Road.

Palace boss Roy Hodgson insisted Zaha hadn’t dived and was being unfairly maligned by rival managers.

“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,” Hodgson said.

“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.”

Watford manager Javi Gracia added: “I knew Zaha, there are always many situations about him because he is the player with the most amount of dribbles in the Premier League.

“It was a very difficult game for the referee. There were a lot of difficult situations.”

Zaha’s antics couldn’t inspire Palace to the win that would have effectively sealed their Premier League status for another season.

The Eagles are now 15th, six points clear of the relegation zone with three games left.

Watford, without a victory from their past five, threatened in the fourth minute when the recalled Stefano Okaka beat James Tomkins to Troy Deeney’s cross and headed against the woodwork.

Palace improved in the second half, but couldn’t deliver the knockout blow.

Luka Milivojevic curled a fine free-kick against the woodwork after a foul on Zaha by Mariappa.

Palace’s final chance came in the 69th minute, when Tomkins headed against a post from Yohan Cabaye’s corner.