Patrick Vieira has urged Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha to keep his “fire” burning following a match-winning display against Aston Villa.
Zaha tormented the visitors at Selhurst Park as Palace picked up their first Premier League victory of the season with a deserved 3-1 success.
The influential forward, who scored twice, was also on the end of some robust challenges, including being scythed down by Villa captain John McGinn, who avoided a second yellow card from referee Andy Madley before being quickly substituted.
Eagles boss Vieira felt Zaha was singled out for rough treatment by Steven Gerrard’s side but believes the player is at his devastating best when fuelled by passionate emotion.
“I think Wilfried doesn’t want to be protected; I think what he wants is just referees to be fair,” replied Vieira when asked if Zaha requires more support from officials.
“And, to be honest with you, I think the referee spoke with him really quite well and Wilfried has to understand that with the quality that he has, that will happen.
“Obviously he was targeted and I think one of the objectives of Aston Villa was to make him lose his head.
“But at the end, he got his fire inside him that I don’t want him to lose because that makes him the great player that he is.
“He had a fantastic game.”
Zaha has now scored in each of the Eagles’ last seven top-flight victories and was afforded a standing ovation when he was substituted late on.
The 29-year-old quickly cancelled out Ollie Watkins’ early opener on Saturday before putting Palace ahead by finishing on the rebound after his second-half penalty was saved by Emiliano Martinez.
He was then involved in the build-up to the clincher, claimed by substitute Jean-Philippe Mateta.
Villa manager Steven Gerrard was unhappy with the award of Palace’s spot-kick – given following VAR intervention after Marc Guehi headed the ball against the arm of Lucas Digne – and equally frustrated by his players’ failure to respond.
His inconsistent side have won just three of their last 14 league fixtures.
“The get-out and the protection is to say ‘not enough in the building’, but I’ve got full belief in all of these players,” said Gerrard, whose side beat Everton last Saturday following an opening-weekend defeat at Bournemouth.
“I’ve got belief in myself and my staff that we can find this consistency.
“In the coming days we’ll do everything we can to give the players more support because we want to move forward and we’re not satisfied with the inconsistency at the moment.
“We can’t be a team one week and then have so many problems the week after.
“The results last year and so far this season are too inconsistent.”