The curtain came down on Palace’s 2015/16 Premier League campaign with a convincing defeat at St Mary’s, but attention now turns to Saturday’s FA Cup final.
With that in mind Alan Pardew made five changes to his line-up, but Sadio Mane scored just before half-time to give Southampton the lead before Graziano Pelle doubled it on 61 minutes.
A fine strike by Jason Puncheon soon after got Palace back into the game but a Ryan Bertrand penalty and a strike by Steven Davis ensured that the Eagles would finish the league campaign with a defeat.
The early exchanges had an end-of-season feel to them with both sides failing to create anything of note, with Victor Wanyama’s 12th minute effort the first shot in anger but it sailed harmlessly over the bar.
However as the minutes ticked by more opportunities began to be created, and having scored twice last weekend a confident Dwight Gayle saw a snapshot punched away by Fraser Forster before a cross by Dusan Tadic flashed just wide of the post, Mane stabbed the ball wide when he was slipped in by Tadic and Shane Long nearly netted with a header via Ryan Bertrand’s cross but it bounced wide.
The chances continued to pile up for the home side and Julian Speroni – on the occasion of his 388th appearance for the Eagles, tying John Jackson’s record for a goalkeeper – was forced into his first save on the half hour mark when Oriol Romeu drove a low one towards goal but it was comfortable for the Argentinian, and then Virgil van Dijk shaved the top of the crossbar with a free-kick from 25 yards.
But three minutes before half-time the pressure told as the host took the lead in scrappy circumstances. A cross by Bertrand saw Damien Delaney and James McArthur go for the same header and when the ball looped up into the sky again, an off-balance Speroni could only punch the ball to Mane who lofted it over the custodian and into the unguarded net.
There was still a chance for Palace to go into the break level again when Puncheon found an unmarked Gayle in the box but his effort struck the chest of Forster, but they would be trailing at the interval which saw Pardew hand Sullay Kaikai the chance to make his Premier League debut off the bench.
The youngster showed some nice touches in his first few minutes on the pitch and just before the hour mark it looked as though he was going to find an equaliser when he scuffed a volley into the ground which looked to be looping into the top corner but Forster managed to claw the ball away to safety.
That save proved crucial as 60 seconds later the Saints doubled their lead. Cuco Martina put a dangerous delivery in from the right where substitute Pelle was waiting, and despite nudging Adrian Mariappa in the back to get to the ball and firmly planting a header past Speroni, the goal was allowed to stand.
Just three minutes later the Eagles managed to hit back and make it 2-1. A Kaikai corner was flapped at by Forster and found its way to Puncheon on the edge of the box, and the ex-Saint took a touch before blasting the ball into the net to score his second goal of the season and get Pardew’s outfit back into the contest.
But with 15 minutes to go the two goal lead was restored. A searching ball allowed Mane to scamper in behind the Palace defence and he was tripped by Mariappa inside the box, and Bertrand was offered the chance to take the kick which he did in style, firing into the top corner from 12 yards.
Puncheon nearly found a second quick response but saw his dragged shot narrowly miss the target before Mane went close to completing his brace with two attempts which also didn’t miss by much, but on 87 minutes the Saints wrapped up the scoring when Pelle chested down a cross from the right for Davis who drilled it home to complete a convincing win for the Europa League-bound hosts.
Southampton: Forster, Martina, Fonte, van Dijk, Bertrand, Romeu (Pelle 46), Wanyama, Davis, Tadic (Ward-Prowse 71), Mane, Long (Austin 83). Subs not used: Stekelenberg, Soares, Yoshida, Reed.
Palace: Speroni, Ward (Kelly 81), Delaney, Mariappa, Souare, Puncheon, McArthur (Lee 78), Jedinak, Mutch (Kaikai 46), Adebayor, Gayle. Subs not used: McCarthy, Dann, Gray, Campbell.