Hennessey wary of Hazard threat

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Published: Wednesday 10th June 2015 by The News Editor

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Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey voted for Eden Hazard as his player of the year – but now he is aiming to shut out the Belgian for the second time this season.

Hennessey was in sparkling form to deny Hazard and company when Wales held star-studded Belgium to a goalless draw in Brussels last November.

But the Crystal Palace keeper admitted Hazard has been his favourite player this season ahead of their Euro 2016 qualifying reunion in Cardiff on Friday night.

“I picked Hazard as PFA player because I thought he had a fantastic season for Chelsea,” Hennessey said.

“He’s got fantastic talent and skill but hopefully we can keep him quiet and stop him.

“But in this group you know there will be stages when you’ve got to park the bus in front of goal and hit teams on the counter.

“They played some very good football in Belgium and it was difficult, sometimes we had to defend for our lives and we did that.

“They’ve also got a lot of height so that’s a different issue we’ve got to deal with.

“But we won’t just sit back and defend, we’ll push on because we’ve got fantastic ability going forward.”

Belgium top Group B on goal difference from Wales with both sides unbeaten at the halfway stage of the campaign.

The Red Devils warmed up for their visit to Cardiff with a 4-3 friendly victory in France on Sunday night – an attacking display which Wales coach Osian Roberts described as “awesome” – but Hennessey insists Chris Coleman’s side will not be overawed by tackling opponents the FIFA rankings rate as the second best in the world.

“We’ve built ourselves up because this is the biggest game, not just for ourselves but for the whole nation,” Hennessey said.

“The campaign is only half-done but it’s fantastic to be where we are and we won’t be changing anything.

“Look around the changing room and there’s some fantastic ability in there.

“Hopefully this is our time (to qualify) and I believe we can finish first in the group if we’re on it.”

Hennessey’s frustrating campaign at club level has been in stark contrast to that of his opposite number on Friday night, with Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois having become a Premier League title winner at Chelsea.

The 28-year-old managed only six starts for Palace – as many as he will have made for Wales this season – in being back up to Julian Speroni and speculation has linked him to rejoining his former manager Tony Pulis at West Brom this summer.

“My season didn’t start very well but I’ve kept myself right and managed to get the last couple of games,” Hennessey said.

“I want to be playing as much as I can and nobody likes to be sitting on the bench, so hopefully next season will be quite different for me.”

Published: Wednesday 10th June 2015 by The News Editor

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