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Saints stunned at Selhurst

Crystal Palace 1-0 Southampton
by Gene Sylvester
at Selhurst Park

THE first Saturday 3pm kick off in the Premier League saw Selhurst Park play host to Southampton, with the two teams desperate for a positive start to the new campaign.

Southampton’s form in the second half of last season had them pitted as slight favourites, but it was Roy Hodgson’s men who took all three points with a 1-0 win, notching up Crystal Palace’s fourth opening-day fixture on the bounce without without conceding a goal.

The Saints’ dominance in the match’s early stages was almost rewarded after three minutes when a James Ward-Prowse corner was met by Jack Stephens, but his header towards goal was weak and easily gathered by Vicente Guaita in the Palace goal.

A couple of minutes later, Southampton threatened again to open the scoring as Che Adams combined well with Danny Ings, slipping in his strike partner only for Guaita to sprint from his line and smother the ball at the England man’s feet.

Despite Southampton’s early dominance off the ball, Palace’s threat on the break was becoming more prominent. A seventh-minute breakaway led by Andros Townsend resulted in Stephens having to turn the ex-England man’s cross behind for a corner, but that opportunity proved to be a precursor of the opening goal.

Southampton winger Nathan Redmond was caught in possession by the ever industrious James McCarthy, who immediately fed Townsend down the right wing. The Palace forward fully exploited the space vacated by Ryan Bertrand, driving towards the corner of the Southampton area before clipping a right-footed cross towards the back post, where Wilfried Zaha cooly side-footed his volley home past the scrambling Alex McCarthy to give Roy Hodgson’s men a 12th-minute lead.

It was a welcome goal for the Palace striker, who had struggled for form in the latter part of last season and, with the arrival of new signing Eberechi Eze from QPR, the Ivorian frontman will be aware that good performances are needed if he is to retain his position in the starting line-up.

In Southampton’s attempt to match the home side’s physicality, Kyle Walker-Peters almost received his marching orders after 49 minutes when referee Jonathan Moss immediately brandished a red card for a seemingly dangerous challenge on Tyrick Mitchell. The decision was later downgraded to a yellow card after Moss consulted the VAR monitor at the side of the pitch.

The away team started the second half on the front foot and were unlucky not to be level on 52 minutes when a Bertrand free kick was nodded down into Adams’s path by Jannik Vestergaard, only for the former Birmingham City striker’s shot from eight yards out to be brilliantly saved by Guaita diving low to his right.

Crystal Palace thought the game had been put out of Southampton’s reach when Zaha seemed to have beaten the offside trap and went through on goal unchallenged to slot past McCarthy in the Saints’ goal, but the linesman’s flag was raised and VAR confirmed that the goal had been correctly disallowed.

The south Londoners had another chance to kill the game off in the 94th minute when the lively Zaha skipped past Vestergaard and bore down on Southampton’s goal, only to fire wide from 18 yards out when he maybe should have slipped in Jordan Ayew, who was in acres of space inside the box.

It was a decision that almost proved costly as Southampton immediately went up the other end of the field with Walker-Peters delivering a pinpoint cross that Ings connected with, only to see his headed effort parried away by the impressive Guaita.

It was a well-earned victory for Hodgson and his troops, but Ralph Hasenhuttl will come away from this match feeling that his team had created enough to get something out of the game.

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