ANDONI Iraola says his main reasoning behind dropping Lewis Cook into an unfamiliar centre-back role was to quell the threat of Eberechi Eze.

In the build-up to the game, Iraola highlighted the danger Crystal Palace’s star man posed, Eze having missed Cherries’ 2-0 win at Selhurst Park in December due to injury.

Last season, Eze scored three goals against Cherries, as Palace secured two 2-0 wins of their own.

And the 25-year-old started for Oliver Glasner’s Eagles at Vitality Stadium, finding the net just before half-time, only for the goal to be ruled out following a tight offside call.

Cherries went on to win 1-0 thanks to Justin Kluivert’s late strike.

With Chris Mepham ruled out through illness, Iraola opted to play midfielder Cook at centre-back, alongside Illia Zabarnyi, with Adam Smith and Lloyd Kelly at full-back. That was despite having defensive options such as James Hill, Max Aarons and Milos Kerkez available as substitutes.

Iraola then made a tactical switch at half-time, bringing Antoine Semenyo on for Alex Scott, pushing Cook back into midfield and shifting Kelly across to centre-back with Zabarnyi, as Dango Ouattara dropped in to full-back, before Kerkez was subbed on around the hour mark.

Explaining the decision to start Cook in defence, Iraola told the Daily Echo: “The reasoning was especially Eberechi Eze, because Eze for me is a top player.

“It is difficult to find the best match-up against Eze, because you find if you mark him, he is kind of playing in between, not a forward, not a midfielder.

“If you mark him with a centre-back, like we did in the second half, he goes low, he gets the centre-back in uncomfortable positions.

“So with Lew, I was thinking he was kind of the best match-up against him.

“But we decided to go one half with Lew, the second half with Zaba.

“It is difficult against Eze, because he is very good.

“It was tough decisions, but it was mostly thinking about him.”