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Joel Ward delighted to see Eberechi Eze back in Crystal Palace action


Joel Ward says that Eberechi Eze’s return to Premier League football is a boost to the whole Crystal Palace squad.

The 23-year-old midfielder played his first competitive top-flight minutes in Saturday’s loss to Aston Villa after returning from the Achilles injury he suffered in May.

Greenwich-born Eze managed to play 30 minutes, and despite the Eagles finding a late goal through Marc Guehi, they fell to their first defeat at Selhurst Park this season.

“We’re delighted that he’s back,” said Ward on Eze’s return. “It gives the squad a boost now that he’s fully back in and coming back on to the playing field as well.

“We know the quality that he brings as a player and as an individual, and the spirit that he will lift as well within the dressing room.”

The Eagles conceded the opener through a Matt Targett strike from a corner, and John McGinn wrapped up all three points with a stunning curling shot from the edge of the box – ending Palace’s seven-game unbeaten run.

“It’s disappointing. We have been in good form – we have created this place a difficult place to come to, and we have been doing well. It’s obviously disappointing to not perform to the levels that we have performed to in recent games,” explained Ward.

The 32-year-old, who is into his ninth season with the South Londoners, added: “Collectively as a group, we weren’t at our best today.

“They made it difficult as well – very organised, closed down the spaces, and they bought their time as well. Whenever we tried to build any momentum or start to put them under pressure, they kind of tactically took their time in certain areas.

Joel Ward delighted to see Eberechi Eze back in Crystal Palace action
Crystal Palace v Aston Villa, Premier League, Selhurst Park, 27 November 2021

“It’s annoying – it’s frustrating. But we have to deal with that in a better way to make sure that, when that does happen, we can capitalise on it and make sure that we can take our chances on the break.”

Asked how much of a miss James McArthur is to the Palace side, with the 34-year-old Scottish midfielder sidelined through a hamstring injury, Ward said: “Macca, same with Eze, every single player brings their quality. Macca’s energy, tenacity, quality and his understanding of the game is vital.

“Even to have around the dressing room, he’s still obviously a massive figure for us, even though he’s sidelined at the moment. But he is making good strides, so hopefully he can continue in that way, and he will be back as soon as possible.”

With Vieira’s side taking on Leeds United on Tuesday night and set to play seven games before New Year’s Day, Ward says: “That’s the beauty of football – you can dust yourself down and go again. That’s what we will do – we will go back to the drawing board and make sure that we will focus on the next task in hand and the next flurry of games coming up.”

PICTURES: KEITH GILLARD

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