Palace start with win over Saints
Crystal Palace 1
Wilfried Zaha’s first-half volley gave Crystal Palace all three points against Southampton on the opening day of the Premier League season at Selhurst Park.
Three years to the day since Roy Hodgson took over at Palace the Eagles earned a hard-fought win against a Southampton side who were bright but rarely threatening.
Kyle Walker-Peters was initially sent off by referee John Moss early in the second half for a foul on Tyrick Mitchell – but Moss downgraded his punishment to yellow after checking with VAR.
And Zaha thought he had made it 2-0 late on but his cool strike was ruled out for offside.
In a first-half where the visitors began by far the brighter of the two teams, Palace, in the end, could have ended it two up.
As it was they had to settle for the one.
Southampton should have taken the lead after just four minutes, centre half Jack Stephens’ free header from a corner in the centre of the box was saved by Vincente Guaita in the Eagles’ goal.
Then just a minute later good link-up play between Ryan Bertrand and Oriol Romeu down the left for Saints led to a chance for striker Che Adams, but the ball evaded him at the crucial moment in the penalty area.
And against the run of play it was the home team who took the lead on 13 minutes. Andros Townsend was set free down the right and his pinpoint cross was volleyed home by who other – Zaha – at the far post.
Zaha complained of rough tactics by Southampton when these sides met a couple of years ago – and judging by the number of times he was on his back in the first half, his protestations that he is one of the Premier League’s most fouled players are hard to entirely disagree with.
He is such a talent, though. He battled away up front, winning throw-ins from situations others would have given up as lost causes, forever threatening with his pace from balls over the top, and once creating a sublime piece of skill – with his back to goal producing a through-ball with a Cryuff turn which outfoxed even his own players.
If Palace survive again, Zaha will be central to that success.
Things could, and should, have got even better for the Eagles later in the half.
Townsend’s free-kick from the left was curled in behind the Saints’ back line, and it appeared that Chiekhou Kouyate was surprised the ball had reached him – getting it stuck under his feet and seeing the ball trickle into the arms of the grateful Alex McCarthy in the Southampton goal.
After their promising start, Saints were restricted well by Palace.
Sporting a shirt reminiscent of the famous Peruvian national top – white with red sash – Southampton began the second period brightly, as they had the first.
First Nathan Redmond shot straight at Guaita when he should have scored, then Walker-Peters tested the Eagles’ defence with a wicked cross from the right.
Just minutes later Walker-Peters was reprieved of the red before Saints had their best chance to level.
Ryan Bertrand’s ball from the left was knocked down by the tall William Smallbone, but Danny Ings' ferocious volley was brilliantly kept out by an instinctive save from Guaita.
James Ward-Prowse curled a couple of free-kicks over the bar for Saints, but in the end Palace were relatively comfortable.
“I will always start a campaign with the primary aim of avoiding relegation,” said Hodgson in his programme notes.
These three points, against a team which finished nine points and three places above the Eagles last term, will have done Hodgson – and Palace – no harm at all.
Crystal Palace: Guaita, Ward, Kouyaté, Dann, Mitchell, Townsend, McCarthy, McArthur, Schlupp, Ayew, Zaha
Substitutes: Hennessey, Kelly, Woods, Milivojević, Eze, Meyer, Batshuyai