12/12/2015: Crystal Palace 1-0 Saints
Saints' winless run continued with a 1-0 defeat at Selhurst Park. Ronald Koeman's side played reasonably well for the first hour, but lacked any real cutting edge going forward. Saints are now 12th as a result of the loss.
Just as he did in the same fixture last season Ronald Koeman started with three centre backs. The first 15 minutes of the game were quite scrappy. Saints had too many men back for Palace to cause problems, and didn't commit enough men forward to threaten at the other end. The visitors had a few good spells on the ball; passing it crisply in Palace's half.
The first major chance didn't arrive until the 17th minute of the game, with Yohan Cabaye shooting over from a free-kick. The action really livened up after that. Paulo Gazzaniga did well to tip Yannick Bolasie's curling effort over the bar, before making a further two impressive saves from follow up corners. On 22 Wilfried Zaha hammered the ball into the stands.
Saints entered into a good spell midway through the first-half. Saints broke on the counter on 25, with Shane Long curling over following Sadio Mane's pass. On 32 the away side put together their most impressive move of the match. Some great build up led to Cedric crossing for Steven Davis, who had his header tipped over brilliantly Wayne Hennessey. A few minutes later Mane sliced the ball over.
Saints were playing quick and purposeful attacking football, but on 38 - against the run of play - Crystal Palace took the lead. Cabaye completing a close range finish after Bolasie had got beyond Fonte on the right. Saints were functional going forward, but were unable to re-establish that swagger they were playing with earlier in the half. Victor Wanyama had a couple of chances just before the break.
The pace of the game slowed during the second half. Saints had plenty of the ball, but Palace managed the game well and looked comfortable for the most part. Bolasie went on a brilliant run, but couldn't quite get the ball past a mass of Saints players on 48. Long fired the ball well over after Wanyama had knocked down Cedric's cross on 55. Virgil van Dijk then wasted a long range effort. Romeu had a shot straight at Hennessey following some good build-up.
Saints sent on Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle - who wasn't fully fit - on 67, but it made little difference. Saints were still wasteful in the final third, rarely able to make inroads into the penalty area. Palace were always liable to hit Saints on the counter. Zaha cleared the bar on 77 after Bolasie had embarked on another great run. Gazzaniga made a string of good saves towards the end of the game, with Palace pushing hard for a second. Saints appeared to have run out of ideas, until stoppage time when Long was put through one-on-one with Hennessey. The Irish striker could only shoot low straight at the keeper's legs. The same player then missed a header from the resulting corner.
Saints played well in spells. It was certainly a better display than any of the previous in this current run of winless games. Some of the football in the first half was particularly easy on the eye and the team moved as a unit. Still, Saints were lacking something where it really mattered at the far end of the pitch. The strong wind certainly had an affect too. It's something to build on, but Saints will have to step it up even further if they are to take any points during this tough Christmas run-in.
Gazzaniga: 7. Made a number of good saves. Should be allowed to continue between the sticks until Fraser Forster returns
van Dijk: 6. Fairly steady on the whole
Fonte: 6. Could have possibly done better for the goal, but otherwise a decent showing. Made a few impressive tackles
Yoshida: 6. Generally read the game well and tidy on the ball
Cedric: 7. Found plenty of joy going forward, whipping in some good crosses
Bertrand: 5. Given the runaround by Zaha
Romeu: 8. Set the tempo, starting attacks and displaying excellent control on the ball
Wanyama: 6. Made a few good forward runs in the first-half, but lost the midfield battle to Cabaye
Davis: 6. A bit slack in possession early on, but showcased skill in spells and unlucky not to score. Drifted out of the game slightly just before coming off
Mane: 6. Pace was useful on the counter. Kept relatively quiet in and around the box. Less influential as the game went on
Long: 6. Pressed well early on. Caused problems with his aggressive running, but utterly wasteful in the 2nd half
Pelle: 6. Seemed to be operating slightly deeper than usual. Made a few good passes
Tadic: 5. Unable to make much of an impact
Ward-Prowse: Made one really good pass, but otherwise quiet
Crystal Palace: Cabaye (38)
Attendance: 24,914 (2,858 Saints fans)
Referee: Mike Dean
Saints line-up: Gazzaniga, van Dijk, Fonte, Yoshida (Tadic 67), Cedric, Bertrand, Romeu (Ward-Prowse 79), Wanyama, S Davis (Pelle 67), Mane, Long
Subs not used: K Davis, Martina, Clasie, Juanmi
Crystal Palace line-up: Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare, Cabaye, McCarthur, Zaha, Puncheon (Mutch 85), Bolasie, Wickham (Chamakh 90)
Subs not used: McCarthy, Mariappa, Kelly, Chung-Yong, Campbell