09/01/2016: Saints 1-2 Crystal Palace
Saints were knocked out of the FA Cup at home to Crystal Palace for the second season running. Ronald Koeman's side were listless going forward during a dull first-half. The team livened up in the second, but Palace had a bit more knowhow and just about deserved the victory, for all of Saints' late pressure.
Koeman switched to a 5-3-2 formation, the same setup used against Palace on a couple of previous occasions. Saints made a reasonable start to the game. Shane Long almost got beyond Eagles keeper Wayne Hennessey on minute 3, before eventually seeing his shot saved. Steven Davis then headed wide from Cuco Martina's cross.
Saints saw a lot more of the ball in the first-half, but that was mainly because Crystal Palace made a conscious effort to sit back and wait to counter. The home side produced a few good bits of individual skill going forward, but there was little intensity and the movement was far too static. Moreover the full-backs didn't offer enough support, meaning Saints were often outnumbered in the final third. The wet surface didn't aid either team. It was a poor spectacle.
Crystal Palace took the lead on 29. Saints' play during the preceding 10 minutes had been extremely sloppy. Several players were guilty of giving away possession too cheaply and they did so again in the build up to the aforementioned goal. Davis' slack pass to Maya Yoshida was intercepted by Jason Puncheon, who made a rapid burst into the area before squaring it to Joel Ward, who completed a simple finish. Saints offered little response prior to half-time. Scott Dann missed a free header from a corner.
Koeman switched to a 4-2-3-1 at the start of the second-half, bringing on Dusan Tadic and Juanmi for Yoshida and Davis. Saints went more direct and threw more men forward. The home side found plenty of joy on the right, with Martina getting forward to support Tadic, who made an immediate impact. Saints got a deserved leveller on 51. Romeu and Juanmi combined well before playing in Martina, who saw his shot pushed out by Hennessey. Romeu was there to smash in under pressure on the rebound.
The momentum was with Saints during the next few minutes, but Palace managed to regain control of the game briefly just after the hour mark. Building patiently, the Eagles eventually re-established their lead. On 69 Puncheon cut in from the edge of the box before aiming for the top corner. Maarten Stekelenburg tipped the ball out straight to Wilfried Zaha, who hammered home.
Palace stuck bodies behind the ball during the final 20 as Saints desperately searched for a leveller. Hennessey made a brilliant save from Juanmi on 74. Jose Fonte powered a header just over the bar before Virgil van Dijk nodded against the post. Mane also headed the ball over, before Hennessey tipped James Ward-Prowse's free-kick just past the post.
Plenty of endeavour in the second-half, but it still wasn't quite enough. Saints appeared to have no real game-plan going forward prior to half-time. There was no cohesion and the ball was moved far too slowly. It makes you wonder what Koeman actually does to prepare his team in training. The tempo picked up in the second-half and Saints had more than enough chances to at least take it to a replay. Palace managed the game a bit better though. Taken in isolation the performance wasn't completely terrible. Saints were under strength and up against a strong Palace side. It feels a lot worse given the run we're on, however. Confidence appears to be at rock bottom right now. Wins are badly needed right now and it doesn't matter how they come.
Stekelenburg: 5. Fitting that he conceded the second goal after making a rare save. Zero presence
Martina: 6. Gave Saints another attacking outlet in the 2nd half, making positive runs down the right
Fonte: 6. A bit hesitant in possession at times
van Dijk: 6. Assured on the ball and once again a threat at corners
Yoshida: 5. Blame for the first goal should lie more with Davis, but even leaving that aside he looked very shaky
Targett: 5. Delivery poor early on, but improved in that department later in the game. Defensively ok
Clasie: 6. Put in a few good tackles. A passable showing
Romeu: 6. Beyond awful in the first-half. Needlessly gave the ball away at least four times. Very good in the second. Scored and maintained decent control of the ball
Davis: 5. Involved in a few good attacking moves early on, but ultimately responsible for the first Palace goal
Mane: 6. Worked hard and did some positive work from deep. Just couldn't quite create enough space for himself in the penalty area
Long: 5. Came alive a bit towards the end, but below par for much of the game
Tadic: 6. Improved things for Saints immediately after coming on, but reluctance to pull the trigger late in the game
Juanmi: 6. Worked hard and did a lot of good defensive work, without offering much going forward
Ward-Prowse: Good set piece delivery
Crystal Palace: Ward (29) Zaha (68)
Saints: Romeu (51)
Attendance: 30,763 (4,587 Crystal Palace fans)
Referee: Lee Mason
Saints line-up: Stekelenburg, Martina, Yoshida (Juanmi 46), Fonte, van Dijk, Targett, Clasie (Ward-Prowse 76), Romeu, S Davis (Tadic 46), Mane, Long
Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Cedric, Reed, Seager
Crystal Palace line-up: Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare, Mutch (Sako 57), Cabaye (Jedinak 83), Ledley, Zaha Puncheon, Campbell (Chamakh 76)
Subs not used: Speroni, Chung-yong, Hangeland, Kelly