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Eberechi Eze believes Crystal Palace are playing with greater freedom since the return of Roy Hodgson following his match-winning display against Southampton.

Eze’s second-half double at St Mary’s earned the Eagles a 2-0 triumph and a third consecutive Premier League success under former England boss Hodgson to all but end the club’s relegation concerns.

The 24-year-old had become a peripheral figure during the reign of Patrick Vieira, with his recall to Palace’s starting XI coinciding with the team’s upturn in form.

Playmaker Eze, who was signed from QPR by Hodgson in 2020, told the club website: “I think he has just given us the confidence in what we’re good at.

“We know what we can do. We know what we’re capable of, and he’s given us the licence to go and do that.

“We’re playing with a lot more freedom, more energy, and we’re so much more positive, which is a huge credit to the gaffer coming in and helping us with that.”

Eze volleyed in a close-range 54th-minute opener on the south coast before swiftly doubling the advantage with a fine drive from distance.

The former England Under-21 international has three goals in two games following his strike in last weekend’s 5-1 thrashing of Leeds.

He started just four of the previous 12 top-flight games prior to Hodgson’s reappointment during which Palace picked up a paltry five points and scored only five times.

“I’m just happy to be contributing, helping the team and doing what I can to influence the game, because it’s been a tough period,” said Eze.

“To come out of it the way that we have is big for us.

“I’ll keep on doing what I can, keep on working hard, applying myself, and whatever happens, happens.

“That was a big game for us. We’ve been putting in good performances, working hard and it’s paid off, so it’s a big one for us.”

Southampton were the better team in the first half but were largely toothless in attack and remain bottom of the table with seven games to go following a sixth fixture without victory.

Joe Aribo and Theo Walcott wasted early openings for Ruben Selles’ hosts, while Carlos Alcaraz hit the inside of the left post after Eze’s decisive brace.

Saints travel to leaders Arsenal next week and Walcott hopes his side can produce a response against his former club.

“We need to move on again quickly, we’ve got a very big game (coming up),” he told Southampton’s website.

“Obviously they’re all big now but we need to do that cliche of focusing on the next game.

“There’s still another three points to play for and that’s all we can do now as players.”