Eagles’ wings are clipped by Saints 3-1 on the South Coast
By Alessandro Schiavone at St Mary’s Stadium
SOUTHAMPTON 3-1 CRYSTAL PALACE
Crystal Palace’s four-year unbeaten run against Southampton at St Mary’s came to an end after slipping to a 3-1 defeat tonight.
Goals either side of half-time by Danny Ings condemned the lacklustre Eagles despite an encouraging start to the game.
This wasn’t a dead rubber as many had predicted. Nor a slow burner. Far from it. As this game burst into life straightaway. In an absorbing encounter on the South Coast, Christian Benteke put the South Londoners ahead after less than two minutes when he clinically smashed home Scott Dann’s flick-on from Eberechi Eze’s free-kick down the left.
But 18 minutes later, the visitors were pegged back through Ings who netted the 100th goal in his club career before putting the game to bed 15 minutes from time with a deadly finish.
Sandwiched between the England international’s two goals was Che Adams’ strike who completed the turnaround three minutes into the second half. Crystal Palace are left ruing Luka Milivojevic’s missed penalty in the 41th minute with the Serbian unconventionally fluffing his lines from 12 yards out.
Crystal Palace raced into a lead after 113 seconds when Benteke clinically smashed home Dann’s flick-on from Eze’s cross.
Benteke may have blown the chance to get Crystal Palace off the mark less than a minute into the game when he narrowly fired wide after Stuart Armstrong had been caught in possession by Eze.
But he hit all the right notes with a predatory finish seconds later. The Belgian striker chested down Dann’s flick-on before he headed the ball forward and ruthlessly squeezed it through Fraster Forster’s legs from range. Not a bad way to put yourself in the shop window if your contract expires at the end of the season and with talks over a potential new deal yet to be held, if there will be any.
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl looked crestfallen on the touchline as the game had barely started when old, defensive problems resurfaced.
With the Eagles taking the game to the home side, full-back Joel Ward tried to lob the ball over Forster after Jannik Vestergaard had headed into his path. That was the last time Palace were in control before lost their way.
Ings stepped up to the starring role to end Southampton’s three-game winless home run against the Eagles which went back to April 2017.
Southampton, who began to stamp their authority on proceedings, clawed their way back into the match when Ings made it a century of goals with a great finish after 19 minutes. Nathan Redmond, who was the driving force behind Southampton’s revival, whipped in a dangerous cross from the left. Ings, with his back to goal, pounced on a poor clearance by Cheikhou Kouyate as the ball dropped kindly into his path before he unleashed a shot into the bottom right-hand corner to cancel out the visitors’ lead.
Six minutes later Redmond forced a fingertip save from the outstretched Vicente Guaita who pulled off an almost identical save when he leaped to his right to keep out Adams’ fierce shot, with Redmond again supplying the ammunition.
In the 36th minute, Dann blocked an effort from close range by Stephens, who found himself into an unorthodox position.
In the 40th minute Wilfried Zaha, who had failed to pull the strings and had been quite peripheral up to that point was fouled by Redmond in the box.
But the normally calm, cool and collected Milivojevic saw his penalty repelled by Forster before James Ward-Prowse’s curling free-kick over the wall flew inches wide two minutes into stoppage time.
Less than two minutes after the restart, Adams grabbed his side’s second as Palace’s backline was found wanting. The former Birmingham City striker stretched out his foot at the back post to score from the tightest of angles.
Palace’s response came four minutes later when Benteke rose above Vestergaard before planting a towering header too close to Forster.
At the hour-mark, the Benteke of old reappeared when he failed to unwrap the gift Stephens served up on a plate after failing to control Kyle Walker-Peters’ back-pass. Despite being through on goal with only Forster to beat, Benteke failed to pull the trigger as Stephens made amends for his mistake by getting back on time to block the attempt.
A minute after replacing penalty villain Milivojevic, Jeffrey Schlupp saw his goal-bound effort thwarted by Forster’s right foot at the near post as the Saints weathered a brief storm.
Southampton, who really meant business, kept knocking on Palace’s door and goal scorer Adams turned provider when he teed up Ings with a well-timed pass into space. The Englishman struck to give his side a two-goal cushion.
In the dying minutes Ward then denied Michael Obafemi to tap into a gaping goal with a last-ditch interception.
Palace can still reach the 50 points tally for the first time in their Premier League history but to do that they have to win their remaining three fixtures against Aston Villa, Arsenal and Liverpool. Which is not beyond them but highly unlikely if they play like tonight.
Teams Southampton FC 4-4-2
44 Fraser Forster- 2 Kyle Walker-Peters- 35 Jan Bednarek-4 Jannik Vestergaard- 5 Jack Stephens- 17 Stuart Armstrong- 11 Nathan Redmond- 8 James Ward-Prowse- 19 Takumi Minamino- 10 Che Adams- 9 Danny Ings
Line-up Crystal Palace 4-4-2.
31 Vicente Guaita- 3 Patrick Van Aanholt- 6 Scott Dann- 8 Cheikhou Kouyate- 27 Tyrick Mitchell- 44 Jairo Riedewald- 4 Luka Milivojevic- 25 Eberechi Eze- 9 Jordan Ayew- 20 Christian Benteke-11 Wilfried Zaha