Shane Long’s below-par finishing did not prove costly for Southampton as Claude Puel’s men scored two late goals to claim a 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace, piling the pressure back on Sam Allardyce’s relegation-threatened side.
Palace were on course to make it five Premier League wins from five for the first time since April 2014 when Christian Benteke’s fifth goal in his last five top-flight appearances against Southampton put them ahead 31 minutes into an end-to-end encounter.
After having what appeared to be a certain penalty waved away by referee Roger East, Southampton deservedly drew level just prior to the interval through Nathan Redmond’s strike.
However, careless finishing from Long left the hosts vulnerable, and only the woodwork prevented Martin Kelly from restoring Palace’s lead after the restart.
But Southampton finally made their domination count with a couple of late goals – Maya Yoshida and James Ward-Prowse tucking home from close-range to wrap up the points.
It represents a dint in Palace’s hopes of moving clear of the drop zone, with the London club just three points ahead of third-bottom Swansea City.
Deployed in an unfamiliar centre-back role, Kelly was exposed in the opening minute – Long firing a low strike just wide after peeling off the former Liverpool man.
Long’s struggles in front of goal continued, the Republic of Ireland man failing to connect firmly with his effort following a fantastic pass from Steven Davis.
Palace almost made Southampton pay soon after, when Luka Milivojevic hit the post before Oriol Romeu blocked Wilfried Zaha’s goal-bound strike.
Making his 250th Palace appearance, Zaha was the instigator as Palace opened the scoring on the half-hour mark, though. His run created space for Andros Townsend, whose cross was deftly turned home by Benteke.
But Palace’s lead was to be cancelled-out on the stroke of half-time.
Moments after referee East had failed to award Southampton a penalty for a blatant handball from Jeffrey Schlupp, Redmond restored parity with a cushioned volley – though Zaha appeared to have been fouled in the build-up.
5 – Christian Benteke has scored five goals in his last five Premier League games versus Southampton. Menace. pic.twitter.com/KMG2bTWT7x
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 5, 2017
Mamadou Sakho came to Palace’s rescue with a terrific block early in the second half, with Cedric Soares unable to convert on the rebound.
Townsend almost turned from provider to scorer with an audacious overhead kick shortly after, before Long again failed to find the target from close range at the other end.
Palace continued to threaten from set-pieces, and Kelly was just inches away from doubling their tally when his half-volley clattered off the post.
Long was left frustrated once more from the resulting counter, Wayne Hennessey rushing out to make a fantastic save from point-blank range.
Southampton’s pressure finally told with five minutes remaining though, Yoshida on hand to turn in Redmond’s cross, before Ward-Prowse added gloss to the victory a minute later, turning in a Soares cross first time with a side-foot finish.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!