Crystal Palace frustrated as Southampton hold on for a point

Will Smallbone of Southampton battles for possession with Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Southampton at Selhurst Park on December 15, 2021 in London, England.

Crystal Palace had to settle for a point as they drew 2–2 with Southampton at Selhurst Park. If Palace felt their impressive win over Everton on Sunday was going to kickstart a spell of good form, the visitors stopped — or at least halted — those plans thanks to two quickfire goals late in the first half.

Wilfried Zaha’s second-minute goal set the Palace fans off in buoyant mood, but James Ward-Prowse inspired the visitors’ comeback with a trademark free-kick. Armando Broja then ensured Southampton went into the break ahead, driving a long-range effort past Jack Butland and into the bottom corner.

The hosts levelled things up midway through the second period thanks to Jordan Ayew’s close-range finish.

Palace fans were barely at their seats when their talisman Zaha put them one up here. A crunching challenge in midfield from Will Hughes gave Odsonne Édouard a whole lot of green space to lap up. He did just that, before slipping the ball wide out left for Zaha. The Ivorian darted into the box, shifted onto his right, and fired past Willy Caballero.

It set the tone for a half of Palace dominance. However, the away team’s counterattacking threat slowly morphed into control of the game — first in the balance of play, and then in the scoreline.

Following a foul by Hughes on Broja, England international Ward-Prowse swung an excellent freekick precisely into the top-left corner — one which bore his hallmark in every way. On nights like this, it’s hard to see who in world football strikes a finer dead ball.

Within four minutes, Saints had taken the lead. Broja capitalised on a poor midfield mistake from Conor Gallagher, approached goal, and found the bottom corner with power and precision from outside the box. His energetic taunting of the home fans shortly after certainly didn’t go down well. But Broja had every reason to celebrate. No Premier League player aged 20 or younger has more than his four goals so far this season.

Valentino Livramento of Southampton battles for possession with Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Southampton at Selhurst Park on December 15, 2021 in London, England. 

Selhurst Park had fallen quiet late in the first half as Southampton enjoyed their purple patch. After the interval, though, Patrick Vieria’s side came out reinvigorated in search of their equaliser. And Odsonne Édouard nearly found it, twice, from a tight angle — but for a smart double save by 40-year-old Caballero.

Eventually, it arrived. Zaha found Édouard, whose shot at goal was blocked well by Caballero’s outstretched leg. Jordan Ayew stole in to convert from a tight angle. Parity again.

And so began almost half an hour of Crystal Palace attacks, counterattacks and recycled attacks. To no avail. Ralph Hasenhüttl’s Southampton got out alive. They had their first-half efficiency to thank for that.

The Saints have squandered 16 points from winning positions already this season, something that concerns Hasenhüttl. “We know that it’s tough for us, but this is the Premier League. You have to concentrate until the end,” he admitted.

His opposite number was surprisingly accepting of the home draw, despite Palace’s strong finish to the game. “Looking at the game overall, I’m pleased to take a point,” Vieira said.

Elsewhere, Burnley’s match against Watford was postponed less than three hours before kick-off, due to a Covid outbreak in the travelling camp. Vieira is mindful of the threat the Omicron variant poses. “It’s not just about football. Every club does their best to try and avoid those cases.”

Palace’s fixture at Watford on Saturday is now surely in some doubt.

Post a Comment

What do you think?

Previous Post Next Post