Saints fan Sam Bell is our man in Havana, well, South-East London to be specific. Here’s his report from our first win of the season, coming against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park…
Saints recorded their first win of the season with a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. Second-half goals from Danny Ings and Pierre Emile Højbjerg ensured the three points returned to the South Coast, leaving Saints mid table and ensured the 3,000 travelling fans had a happy journey home.
Ings scored his second league goal of the season on 47 minutes and the excellent Højbjerg added Saints’ second in injury time. He was strong all game—largely dominating the midfield battle with his partner Mario Lemina—making amends for his red card against Leicester the previous weekend.
Saints dominated the opening 20 minutes with some exciting attacking phases and were unlucky not to take an early lead, with only a goal-line clearance from the Palace defence, who were largely well drilled all game, keeping the visitors at bay. Despite Saints’ dominance in possession there were few other clear-cut chances for the visitors.
Palace, although missing the excellent Wilifred Zaha, still boast Christian Benteke in their ranks, and the powerful forward had a good chance for the home side, but he couldn’t direct his header on target following a cross right-back Aaron Wan Bissaka.
Minutes later Saints had a great chance to open the scoring. Shane Long, who was having a strong game, controlled a ball forward and laid it off to the hard-running Højbjerg whose shot was saved by Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessy.
Benteke, despite his size and strength, twice went to ground softly in search of penalties but was denied on both occasions by referee Martin Atkinson. Not long after his second failed attempt, Hennessy had to be alert at his near post to deny an own goal giving Saints the lead. Just before the interval Luka Miliojevic had a good first-time effort on the volley comfortably saved by Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy. It with Palace’s only attempt on target in the first half.
Half-time: Crystal Palace 0-0 Southampton
After just two minutes of the second half Saints took the lead through Ings’ calm finish. A mix-up in the Palace defence allowed Cedric’s hopeful ball forward to land at the feet of the striker, who calmly slotted past Hennessey.
Six minutes later Palace midfielder James McCarthur hit the corner of the cross bar with a swerving shot, and Saints withstood further pressure, eventually clearing the ball after a goalmouth scramble provided Palace with a number of opportunities to equalize. Centre backs Jannik Vestergaard and Wesley Hoedt, who both had strong games, ultimately cleared the danger. There is a strong case to be made this was Hoedt’s best game in a Saints shirt.
Saints were then gifted an opportunity to take a commanding 2-0 lead from the penalty spot, after Palace were adjudged to have handled the ball in the box. But substitute Charlie Austin’s weak effort was comfortably saved.
Saints had been the better side, controlling large parts of the game, but the penalty save galvanized Palace who then put Saints under pressure for much of the remaining half hour. Palace substitute Cheikhou Kouyoute and left back Patrick Van Aanholt both had efforts saved by the excellent Alex McCarthy, whose form had lead to an England call-up in earlier in the week. Palace continued to push forward, and Benteke had a golden opportunity to level the scores, but McCarthy was equal to it, making his best save of the game.
Two minutes into stoppage time and Højbjerg made sure of the win, latching onto Matty Targett’s throughball on the counter attack, and finishing calmly past Hennnessey.
Full time: Crystal Palace 0 – 2 Southampton.
It was a good win for the Saints, and for Mark Hughes it was his first victory in six attempts as a Premier League manager at Selhurst Park. It was a disciplined performance and Saints were defensively well organised, but Palace should consider themselves unlucky not to score, specifically in the wake of Austin’s penalty miss. McCarthy, however, proved his ability and worth to Saints, while underscoring his international call-up.