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Cheikhou Kouyate praises team-mates for helping him adjust to defensive role

Crystal Palace v Everton – Premier League – Selhurst Park
(Image credit: Bradley Collyer)

Crystal Palace’s makeshift centre-back Cheikhou Kouyate has heaped praise on the defenders at the club for helping him adjust to his new role.

The Senegal international has traditionally lined up for the Eagles in midfield, but injury issues at the back end of last season and the start of this campaign have seen him needed in the back four.

Kouyate has coped admirably and played a key part in the south London club winning two of their opening three games in the Premier League.

Such has been the 30-year-old’s form, he has leapfrogged right-back Martin Kelly as a deputy at centre-back and shone alongside Scott Dann and then Mamadou Sakho in victories over Southampton and Manchester United.

“Yes I know the role. I played some games there with the national team and with West Ham,” Kouyate said.

“It is not easy and it’s a long time that I didn’t play this role. In the beginning I am working every day with the staff and they help me.

“The players, Dannsy, Mamadou, Kelly – it is so, so easy to me to have so many experienced players with me because they taught me so much. It is helping me very much.”

Kouyate marked his excellent start to the new season with a goal in Saturday’s 2-1 loss at home to Everton.

It was only his second for the club since he joined from West Ham in August 2018, but a controversial penalty decision saw the Toffees take the points at Selhurst Park.

Joel Ward’s hand was adjudged to be in an unnatural position when Lucas Digne’s header hit him inside the area from close range and after using the pitchside monitor, referee Kevin Friend pointed to the spot.

“If you score and don’t win, it’s nothing to me. We need to continue to work hard, we have a very good squad and maybe we are going to try to do something this year,” Kouyate added.

“For me it is not a penalty. This is the VAR sometimes, they come in to kill the game. We can do nothing.

“It is very, very hard to take it because after the penalty everything changes. We tried to push and it comes to nothing.”

Richarlison’s spot-kick, coupled with Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s opener, saw Everton make it five wins from five in all competitions this season.

Many have tipped Carlo Ancelotti’s side to fight for Europe, but Palace pushed them all the way in SE25 even if they failed to test Jordan Pickford enough.

Saturday’s fixture was a memorable one for Palace’s summer signing Ebere Eze too, after he made his first start in the Premier League.

It was another encouraging and confident display by the ex-QPR playmaker, who continues to make an impression in the infancy of his career at Selhurst Park.

Kouyate added: “This kid is so special. He has a very good character, good with the ball and good vision.

“We are happy to have this boy with us because he is a very good player. On Saturday, he played very good. We are so happy to have him.”