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There was no question as to the shock of the weekend as Crystal Palace became the first team to take any points from Stamford Bridge since September.

Sam Allardyce’s men were behind inside five minutes with most ready to write the Eagles off from that point if they hadn’t before kick-off. But in Wilfred Zaha they now have a match winner who is answering some long-standing criticism.

Ever since he broke onto the scene at Selhurst Park there was an appreciation the winger was a special talent. As an academy product come good he was always bound to win the support of the Palace fans.

Yet from an early age many had their reservations about a player that promised so much but delivered too little by way of goals in particular.

But  doubters didn’t deter Manchester United from splashing the cash on Zaha in January 2013.He would be Sir Alex Ferguson's last signing as United boss,  yet it would prove a move that perhaps came too soon for a player that now seems befitting of a big club.

Wilfried Zaha on the Manchester United bench

Having made just two Premier League appearances for the Red Devils Zaha was quickly labelled a flop – confirming to those who felt he was overrated, lazy and lacking end product that he wasn’t the player the Palace faithful have always claimed him to be.

It’s taken some time but Zaha has this season begun to win over his critics and with it draw the sort of admiring glances that preceded a move to Old Trafford. Simply put he is coming good on the potential that saw him capped twice by England shortly after his 20th birthday.

Four and a half years on many are now suggesting that the Three Lions have missed a trick, leaving a second call-up too long to allow Ivory Coast to persuade Zaha that his future in international football lay elsewhere.

It’s certainly an understandable assumption that Gareth Southgate could benefit from a player of Zaha’s ilk. After all, he has always had the tools to accomplish what he is beginning to do, able to combine pace, trickery and power to devastating effect.

While many are still quick to claim praise of the Palace flyer’s form as reactionary following a sensational goal on international duty ahead of his star showing at Chelsea, in reality those moments of brilliance have become far more consistent.

Zaha’s goal at the Bridge was his sixth of the season – which is still a modest return – but his assist for Christian Benteke’s impudent winner was his seventh, combining for a direct hand in more goals than any other Palace player.

He has been the Eagles' standout player by a distance but that doesn’t really justify just how impressive Zaha has been.

An average of 4.2 dribbles per game is enough to rank third in the Premier League but that is almost to be expected from a player that has always terrorised opposition full-backs.

It’s what he does with the ball after outfoxing his man that has been questioned, with just ten players having created more clear cut goalscoring chances in England’s top-flight this season.

His cross accuracy, now at 26.3%, has risen year-on-year since returning to the capital and so to has his conversion rate, which currently sits at 16.2% for the season. His ability to effect games has improved massively as a result and his threat on the counter will be a real draw for some of the country’s best sides.

Wilfried Zaha celebrates

It’s little coincidence that of his 13 ‘goal contributions’ 10 have come away from home – only Alexis Sanchez and Diego Costa have weighed in more on the road – as Palace soak up possession and break at speed.

That may not seem important to the teams vying for places at the opposite end of the table but particularly in matches against one another, the ability to deliver a sucker punch has proven critical at times this season.

Zaha unquestionably has that ability and as a result will be the subject of plenty of interest this summer. The consolation for Palace is his price tag is now very much on the rise.

Tottenham have long been credited with a liking for the 24-year old, while the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal may also be on the lookout for wide options when the transfer window opens.

It’s Spurs that could perhaps do with a player of Zaha’s quality though, having swung and missed with the signing of Moussa Sissoko.

The £35m spent on the Frenchman has proven to be disastrous and while there are similarities between the two, Zaha’s approach play is far more refined.

Both are capable of stretching sides with their pace and directness but where Sissoko’s offers brute force and perhaps little else, Zaha has the trick up his sleeve and agility that make him the player that he is.

Unpredictable and frightening for defenders having tormented so many this season into a state where they aren’t sure whether to commit or attempt to track the winger before eventually doing neither.

Wilfried Zaha comparison

There’s no denying that Zaha still has room to improve. He should still score more goals but in truth doesn’t find himself in positions to do so too often at Palace, with a modest 1.4 shots per game.

There’s also no denying his progress though, or the fact that this season he has matured almost immeasurably in his team play, both on and off the ball.

An average of 2.4 tackles per game is certainly not the return of a lazy or greedy player. Zaha now plays for the team whilst still possessing the skill set to turn a game all on his own.

He has won possession 17 times in the attacking third this season, which just makes the top 20, on the same figure as Paul Pogba and Raheem Sterling.

Those two players have to deal with the same criticism that Zaha does, dividing opinions to such a degree that the likelihood of them ever doing otherwise seems an impossibility.

One thing for certain, however, is that Wilfred Zaha has not just been the star of the show at Selhurst Park but one of the most effective wingers in the league this season.

It will take a huge fee to prize him away from Palace for a second time but he may well have convinced a number of clubs that he is ready to make the next step in a career that promises a great deal yet.

READ MORE: Wilfried Zaha ready to show Manchester United what they're missing

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