Crystal Palace 0 Southampton 1 match report: Jay Rodriguez pounces to push Palace nearer drop
Pulis’s goal-shy team face tough trio of fixtures as relegation zone looms
Crystal Palace’s run of home wins under Tony Pulis, invaluable as it was, had been against teams from the bottom half of the table. In Manchester United and Southampton they have recently come up against something a touch classier, and as a result are now just two points above the gallows places.
As of yesterday, they are also the lowest scorers in the League, having registered just one shot on target all afternoon, and while the new manager may have tightened up the defence it is the time of the season when goals count. A miserly 19 in 28 games does not augur well.
Palace were left to rue conceding an unusual, if careless, one to Jay Rodriguez and to complain about the referee, Howard Webb, not sending off Dejan Lovren early in the second half. Webb gave the benefit of the doubt to Southampton’s Croatian defender when he cut down Yannick Bolasie, believing that it was not quite an obvious scoring opportunity.
As the statistics demonstrated, opportunities of any sort were in woefully short supply, and Southampton were hardly prolific in a game unworthy of the beautiful sunshine. What they did have were four England internationals in influential form.
Rodriguez took his goal bravely and imaginatively; Rickie Lambert, a lone striker looking much more dangerous than Palace’s Glenn Murray, worked hard and hit a post; Adam Lallana was elegant and composed in the central role behind him; and Luke Shaw reprised his excellent Wembley performance, hitting more shots at the opposition goalkeeper than the entire Palace side.
Solid at the back, Southampton dealt comfortably with the 20-plus crosses that were all Pulis had to boast about, and were never in danger of suffering a first Premier League defeat in 10 meetings to the south London side. Instead, the figures were all positives: they have already superseded last season’s 41 points, and this sixth away win was a Premier League record for the club. Finishing in the top eight remains a strong possibility.
“I don’t know how far we can go,” their manager, Mauricio Pochettino, said. “We played our way, kept the ball on the ground and I thought the victory was well deserved.”
Pulis, who does not do negativity, said only: “The disappointing thing was that we didn’t create more opportunities. It was a tough, tight game and we needed a break. The most important thing now is to stay focused.”
Focus they must for the long trips to Sunderland and Newcastle before the League leaders, Chelsea, visit Selhurst.
Killing the game may well be the approach on those occasions, but yesterday it worked against Palace that for more than 35 minutes nothing of note happened; then a strange goal materialised.
The home side had been pressing at last and won a couple of corners, the second of which was cleared only as far as the halfway line. Jason Puncheon, late of Southampton, tried a header that he left much too short, Dean Moxey could not cover and Julian Speroni had to race from his area to take on Rodriguez in a fifty-fifty sliding challenge. The Southampton man won and hooked the ball into an empty net while still on the ground.
Before half-time the visitors – and the England contingent – might have had another, Lambert hitting the post with a clever shot from Lallana’s chip and Shaw shooting at Speroni from Steve Davis’s corner. Not until added time was Boruc called upon. He did well to hold Kagisho Dikgacoi’s low drive, which remained his one save of the day.
The only moment of excitement in the whole second half came soon after the resumption. The lively Bolasie wriggled through the middle and was brought down by Lovren, but it appeared that Nathaniel Clyne was within tackling distance. Webb decided a yellow card was sufficient, and Mile Jedinak wasted the free-kick.
Crystal Palace (4-4-1-1): Speroni; Ward, Dann, Delaney, Moxey; Puncheon (Ince, 70), Dikgacoi (Jerome, 70), Jedinak, Bolasie (Thomas, 82); Ledley; Murray.
Southampton (4-2-3-1): Boruc; Clyne, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw; Cork (Wanyama, 32), Schneiderlin; Davis (Ward-Prowse, 88), Lallana, Rodriguez; Lambert (Gallagher, 75).
Referee: Howard Webb.
Man of the match: Lallana (Southampton)
Match rating: 5
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