Crystal Palace 0-1 Southampton
Quick thinking from Southampton’s top scorer Jay Rodriguez just before half-time ensured that Palace’s hopes of putting distance between themselves and the Premier League bottom three were shattered at a sun-drenched Selhurst Park.
Rodriguez, who was an unused substitute in England’s midweek win against Denmark at Wembley, pounced on a mistake in the 37th minute after Jason Puncheon, playing against his former club, misjudged a simple header to Dean Moxey as the last man, following a Palace corner that was cleared out by the Saints defence.
Finding himself through on goal and with Palace ‘keeper Julian Speroni outside of his box and unable to use his hands, Rodriguez came out the winner in the 50/50 after the Argentinean stopper could only partially block, and the Saints forward slotted home from a near-horizontal position on the ground.
Moments before Palace had created their best chances of the half as Yannick Bolasie, alongside Glenn Murray and Joe Ledley caused problems in the Saints defence, well-marshalled by former Eagles’ favourite Jose Fonte.
The first 30 minutes of the half were a dour affair with the weather much brighter than what was on show on the Selhurst Park turf as the home side, well-organised and robust, stifled the Saints attack.
Tony Pulis’ side started with Joe Ledley pushed high up the pitch in behind Glenn Murray in the Palace attack as the manager made three changes to the side who gained a valuable point away at Swansea last Sunday. Puncheon returned to the starting line-up alongside Dean Moxey and Murray, with the injured Marouane Chamakh out of the squad alongside Jonathan Parr - Tom Ince was dropped to the bench.
Murray was a constant threat to the Saints backline, who were sloppy with their passing when in possession, but the Eagles could not create any clear opportunities and it was only after Rodriguez’s strike that the Eagles had a clear opportunity as Bolasie could only head over at the back post when he should have troubled Artur Boruc in the Saints goal.
Speroni was the busier of the two goalkeepers as in added first half time a poor clearance header from Joel Ward fell to Rickie Lambert whose expert stab saw the ball beat Speroni but bounce off the outside of the post to safety. With the last kick of the half and Palace’s minds already in the dressing room, Luke Shaw’s curling shot was well handled by the alert Speroni.
Palace continued creating problems for the Saints defence after half-time with Dejan Lovren joining his defensive partner Fonte on a yellow card after chopping down Bolasie on the edge of the box with former Eagle Nathaniel Clyne covering and saving a sending off for the big Croatian.
Pulis had seen enough and with attacking intent he withdrew Puncheon and Kagisho Dikgacoi, replacing them with Cameron Jerome and Tom Ince, who immediately combined but Ince could not beat Clyne to Jerome’s ball at the back post in the 67th minute.
Palace tried in vain to gain a valuable point as the game drew to a close like the setting sun over SE25, but the Southampton defence stood firm and the Eagles will make the long journey up to Sunderland next week for their relegation six-pointer against Sunderland.
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Moxey, Dikgacoi (Jerome - 66), Jedinak, Ledley, Puncheon (Ince - 66), Bolasie (Thomas - 82), Murray.
Subs not used: Hennessey, Gabbidon, Bannan, Gayle.