Yesterday afternoon’s game between Watford and Crystal Palace ended in a 2-1 win for the Hornets but it was a foul from Étienne Capoue which made the most headlines during and after the match.
Wilfried Zaha has been Watford fans’ biggest individual enemy since the play-off final between us back in 2013, when the Eagles’ academy graduate was hacked down inside the penalty area, winning the penalty that would ultimately see us reach the Premier League at their expense.
In the years that have since passed, he’s been made the pantomime villain in each and every one of our meetings, often provoking him to perform rather well, as his goal in the latter stages of yesterday’s game proved.
Whilst the songs, jibes, boos and theatrics from a fully grown man dressed in a Hornet costume can all be taken as part and parcel of the game, there has also been a targeted effort to hurt the 25-year-old on many occasions, the most recent of which could easily have seen Étienne Capoue end his season in the opening five minutes of yesterday’s meeting.
Referee Anthony Taylor was mere feet from the incident with a perfectly clear line of sight and somehow managed to produce just a yellow card for the foul; a decision which prompted Graeme Souness to lose his mind when analysing the opening 45 minutes for Sky Sports shortly after.
It’s not often we see pundits without a direct connection to Palace talking so passionately in defence of Zaha and as such, I was hugely happy to see the Scotsman so apoplectic with rage on his behalf. If referees aren’t careful, players like Capoue are going to put and end to Wilfried’s career. A string of Palace managers have pleaded with officials to pay attention to the treatment he gets but yesterday, Anthony Taylor was clearly guilty of reacting to the home crowd’s bias when failing to dismiss the Frenchman early on.
Aside from the dangerous nature of his play, Capoue’s presence on the field had a major impact on the game as a whole, with his lung-bursting second half run acting as the immediate precursor to Pereyra’s opening strike in the 53rd minute.
To put things quite simply, referees across the Premier League need to realise that they’re endangering a player’s general well-being by turning a blind eye to the batterings he takes from week to week.
Enough is enough.