Yoshida and Ward-Prowse strike late as Southampton sink Crystal Palace
Away team scorers Christian Benteke 31
Within only 60 sloppy seconds all of Sam Allardyce’s hard work of late unravelled as Southampton restored those relegation worries for Crystal Palace by snatching victory here. Up until six minutes from time Claude Puel’s side were poor in front of goal before Maya Yoshida and then James Ward-Prowse popped up to defeat the visiting side.
Just like that, Allardyce’s record of having never lost a league match at St Mary’s was over and Palace’s four-match winning run was abruptly ended.
Allardyce had said Saturday’s win at Stamford Bridge established a “buoyant mood” within the camp and challenged his players to further lift the doom and gloom by matching that performance at Southampton. He had his own impeccable record to maintain too.
Allardyce, without the key defensive trio of James Tomkins, Scott Dann and Patrick van Aanholt through injury, opted to start Martin Kelly alongside Mamadou Sakho in the heart of defence in what was his only change.
Puel made two changes, preferring Shane Long to Jay Rodriguez up front and Sam McQueen replaced Ryan Bertrand, who was missing from the squad altogether.
The troublesome penalty spot, where Bournemouth’s Harry Arter spectacularly missed on Saturday, was relaid with a patch of hybrid turf to ensure the surface was 100% firm from 12 yards. Southampton, with two wins from their past eight matches, were in no mood for any slip-ups.
Southampton had a flurry of early chances, with Shane Long twice guilty of failing to test Wayne Hennessey from close range. Palace took a while to settle but took encouragement after Luka Milivojevic’s flighted free-kick struck the woodwork.
Christian Benteke proved a handful in attack and saw his powerful effort blocked by Yoshida after nutmegging Jack Stephens. The striker was a constant menace and unsurprisingly gave Palace the lead after rounding off a superb team move, prompted by the full-back Jeffrey Schlupp on the halfway line, before the defender handed the ball over for Wilfried Zaha to drive towards goal.
Southampton stood off the winger and after passing the ball around on the edge of the box, Jason Puncheon laid the ball on for Andros Townsend, who fired in a low cross for Benteke to tap home his 13th goal of the season.
Palace were jubilant while Southampton raged. The referee Roger East twice waived away penalty appeals, with Long going over easily one moment and Schlupp appearing to paw the ball away from Dusan Tadic with his hand the next.
But just before half-time, Steven Davis easily beat Zaha to the ball on the byline and his deep crossed was met by Nathan Redmond, whose scruffy half-volley forced its way low past a sea of Palace bodies and the goalkeeper Hennessey.
Southampton began the second half as they did the first, at frenetic pace with Nathan Redmond charging down the left flank. He picked out Ward-Prowse from the byline but Sakho threw his body in the way of the midfielder’s volley before Cédric Soares drove wide from distance.
Southampton’s struggles in front of goal were typified by Long, who once more shot off target and the growing frustration amongst home supporters.
Palace could have made them pay, with Townsend almost catching Fraser Forster off guard with his hooked effort from Milivojevic’s searching ball, forcing the Southampton goalkeeper to back-pedal.
Southampton, in fairness, never gave up with Sakho and Damien Delaney superbly denying Davis. But eventually Crystal Palace’s defence gave way, with the unlikely hero Yoshida as he tapped home at the back post from Redmond’s cross.
Palace sunk as Saints sprung to life, with Ward-Prowse adding a simple third less than a minute later.