Crystal Palace manager Sam Allardyce has praised on-loan Liverpool centre-back Mamadou Sakho, after the Frenchman’s debut for the Eagles.
Sakho left for Selhurst Park at the end of the January transfer window, after spending the first half of the season in exile on Merseyside.
Joining Allardyce’s relegation battlers, Sakho is looking to restore his reputation in the Premier League, having fallen out of favour under Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool.
His next step towards doing so came on Saturday afternoon, when he made his first senior appearance in 10 months in Palace’s 1-0 win at home to Middlesbrough.
And speaking after Sakho helped his side keep their third clean sheet of the campaign, Allardyce described his performance as “commanding,” and praised his fitness after a lengthy spell out.
“It was a nice performance. It was his first Premier League game this season, so we spent a good bit of time on his fitness and he’s accepted that he had to put that extra work in,” he said.
“His experience and composure made him look very commanding. I wasn’t sure if he’d last the whole game but he did.
“And we needed him because he set so many attacks up for us, particularly in the first half when instead of clearing it he gave it to the midfield lads.”
For Sakho, who spent the first months of 2016/17 with the Liverpool U23s, moving to Palace represents an opportunity to prove himself in the English top flight once more.
And speaking after the game, the centre-back attested to the rewarding nature of his side’s victory, after his long-term absence.
“My last game was 10 months ago but during this time I have been working hard on my fitness and after my performance it has all been worthwhile,” he explained.
“I am really proud to be involved in this victory and from my point of view it is always about me giving my best when I am out on the pitch for the club, the team and the supporters.
“We played 12 against 11 in this game because the fans were really good for us and they gave us a lot of courage and confidence to go on and play with a lot of energy and it was nice to get the result for them.
“We played very well as a team, gave a strong performance and deserved the three points in a really difficult game.
“It was great though to come away with the win and we played with real heart to get the result.”
Sakho’s performance for Palace was exemplary, and with Liverpool still struggling for consistency at the back, the decision to part ways with the Frenchman remains questionable.
The Eagles paid £2 million to secure his services for six months, and it is unlikely he will return to take up a role under Klopp at Anfield.