03/03/2015: Saints 1-0 Crystal Palace
Saints got back to winning ways with a solid display against Crystal Palace. Ronald Koeman's side had to be patient, but their persistence eventually paid off. The win lifts Saints back up to 5th in the table.
Saints looked slightly edgy during the opening quarter. Palace pressed well without committing too many players forward. The hosts edged the possession stakes, building up patiently from the back. Saints had slightly more variety to their play compared to recent fixtures and weren't afraid to shoot from distance. Filip Djuricic shot over the bar on 11 after controlling Victor Wanyama's mishit effort. Later on Djuricic turned provider for Morgan Schneiderlin, who saw his back heel fly wide of the post.
Palace took the sting out of the game slightly during the latter part of the first-half. They had the ball in Saints' half a bit more without creating many chances. Koeman's men did step it up a bit just before the break. On 40 there was a big scramble in the Palace box, Graziano Pelle shot wide after Julian Speroni had palmed the ball out. Saints maintained the high energy going into half-time but were unable to test Palace's defence further.
Palace enjoyed their best spell of the game at the start of the second half. Fraser Forster made an excellent save with his legs after Jason Puncheon had shot on the turn on 48. A few minutes later there was pandemonium in the box, with Saints unable to clear. Wilfried Zaha hit the post after Yannick Bolasie's initial effort was stopped.
Saints responded well to that let off, gradually improving as the minutes ticked on. Djuricic headed over the bar from Jose Fonte's cross. On 70 Maya Yoshida was presented with an excellent chance, missing at the back post from a corner. Saints were very much on the front foot going into the final 15 minutes. Dusan Tadic's free-kick went just over the bar. Koeman then made a change which would prove decisive. James Ward-Prowse came on for Djuricic. The England U21 international was heavily involved straight away, taking a couple of set pieces. Then on 83 he drove forward towards the edge of the area before shooting powerfully at Speroni. The ball rebounded out to Sadio Mane, who scooped it over the Argentinian keeper. Palace saw more of the ball after the goal, but Saints defended their lead really well. Puncheon had one final chance deep into stoppage time, curling wide of the post.
A much improved performance and a satisfying three points. Saints were a bit easier on the eye and expended a lot of energy. Even at 0-0 you couldn't really fault any individual performances. Everyone played their part. Unfortunately Saints only have two more games this month, the next being away at Chelsea, so it might be harder to gain the momentum a result like this should bring. Still, it's a big relief to finally break the goal drought and hopefully eases the pressure on the players somewhat.
Forster: 7. Nearly spilled the ball in the first half, but overall a decent evening. Called upon a couple of times, making some good second half saves
Clyne: 7. An improvement on recent displays. Linked up well on the right
Fonte: 7. Stood strong and read the game well
Yoshida: 7. Occasionally a bit wasteful on the ball, but some excellent defensive work
Bertrand: 7. A bit sloppy in possession early on, but defensively sound and decent going forward
Schneiderlin: 8. Saw a lot of the ball. Some good cross-field passes. Defensive work towards the end of the game was particularly excellent
Wanyama: 7. Generally used the ball well. Got forward to good effect
Mane: 8. Never stopped running. Displayed a great change of pace. Goal was a great reward for his efforts
Djuricic: 7. Worked the ball well in tight areas. Made a couple of good driving runs forward
Elia: 6. Pulled off a few nice bits of skill
Pelle: 6. A much better performance. Movement good. Caused Palace problems with his physicality
Tadic: 6. Looked fairly sharp
Long: 6. Pressed hard and used the ball intelligently
Ward-Prowse: Made a great impact immediately after coming on, playing a key role in the goal. Kept giving the ball away in the dying stages
Saints - Mane (83)
Attendance - 28,351 (1,871 Crystal Palace fans)
Referee - Martin Atkinson
Saints: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Bertrand, Schneiderlin, Wanyama, Mane, Djuricic (Ward-Prowse 77), Elia (Tadic 59), Pelle (Long 70)
Subs not used: K Davis, Alderweireld, Gardos, S Davis
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Kelly, McArthur (Ameobi 84), Ledley, Bolasie, Puncheon, Zaha, Gayle
Subs not used: Hennessey, Mariappa, Hangeland, Boateng, Gray, Souare