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Report: Zaha caps sensational Southampton fightback in final moments

Southampton
1
Romeu 9'
2
Crystal Palace
Eze 60'
Zaha 90+2'

Eberechi Eze and Wilfried Zaha ensured Crystal Palace returned to south London with an incredible reward for their tireless efforts against Southampton, as the midfielders' second-half strikes saw them fight-back from behind to win 2-1.

Summary

  • Patrick Vieira makes one change from the Leeds clash - starting Jeffrey Schlupp, with Wilfried Zaha on the bench
  • Southampton take the lead after 10 minutes when Oriol Romeu heads in from a corner
  • The game remains well-matched, with Palace enjoying the greater chances after conceding
  • The south Londoners push high and in numbers when attacking, and enter half-time as the dominant team despite the scoreline
  • Half-time: Southampton 1-0 Crystal Palace
  • Palace emerge well for the second-half, with Schlupp denied a goal from close range by Jan Bednarek
  • Eze pulls Palace level on the hour-mark, striking a half-volley past Fraser Forster with precision
  • Zaha takes to the field in the 64th-minute, with Southampton making a double attacking change as both teams pursue victory; Michael Olise comes on 10 minutes later
  • The game settles somewhat after 80 minutes of high-intensity play
  • With moments left Zaha strikes from the edge of the box to seal a memorable Palace win
  • Full-time: Southampton 1-2 Crystal Palace

Patrick Vieira was immediately vindicated for his pre-match prediction of two teams who would “try to play high on the field and try to put pressure on the opposition” when Crystal Palace faced Southampton on Saturday afternoon.

This game, seen by some outside the two clubs as low-stakes, began fast, with both teams moving with intent on and off the ball and carrying possession the length of the pitch in moments.

Vieira’s other prediction was that James Ward-Prowse would provide his usual threat from set pieces, which the game’s first 10 minutes also confirmed. The Palace manager called Ward-Prowse “one of the best in Europe” at dead balls, and before long the midfielder had bagged an assist from a corner earned by one of his free-kicks.

Ward-Prowse whipped a close free-kick into touch via Joel Ward and, from the resulting corner, found Oriol Romeu in the box, with the towering Spaniard heading in off the crossbar.

Undeserving of being behind, Palace responded well. Jeffrey Schlupp was pivotal in two promising chances created from his left-flank, as the versatile midfielder roamed high up the wing in place of Wilfried Zaha.

He first played a square ball towards Jordan Ayew with just too much pace for his fellow Ghana international, and then crossed well towards Conor Gallagher, who headed narrowly wide inside the box.

The visitors switched Schlupp and Eberechi Eze shortly after going behind, with the latter moving out wide and the former joining Gallagher in a shape that often read 4-1-2-3, with James McArthur guarding the back four and Eze and Ayew pushing either side of Jean-Philippe Mateta.

The next chance, however, again came from Schlupp on the flank. The midfielder played a smart pass into Mateta and the Frenchman struck low and hard at goal, with Fraser Forster blocking with his legs.

Vicente Guaita was forced into action by Nathan Redmond at the near post and Nathan Tella from much further out, but dealt with both efforts comfortably as his team largely dominated proceedings.

Palace overloaded the attack and often found themselves four-on-five, with Gallagher given the freedom to drive up the pitch and join his colleagues on the offensive.

This routinely pinned the hosts back and saw efforts fly Forster’s way - and once onto the roof of the net - throughout the opening 45. It was a convincing response to going behind, but regardless Palace entered the break with a deficit to reduce.

The second-half began much as the first had ended as Palace tested their hosts from the restart. After appeals for a penalty in the 46th-minute the visitors came close when Jan Bednarek won the battle to clear a drilled Gallagher cross aimed towards Mateta.

Palace created a huge chance again denied by Bednarek when Forster pushed an Ayew cross into the centre of the box, inadvertently finding Schlupp who struck into his Polish marker.

Saints responded when another Ward-Prowse free-kick caused trouble, this time sparking a short spell around Palace’s box in which Shane Long saw an effort deflected behind to safety.

The hour-mark came with Palace still behind - and Wilfried Zaha started to receive his instructions.

In the end however his introduction wasn’t required for Palace to pull themselves back. A smart passing move saw James McArthur initiate an attack from the right, where Nathaniel Clyne raced to the byline to lift in a first-time cross.

The ball sailed over the box and bounced 15 yards out by the far post. Eze had found the perfect position, with the space and time to watch the cross drop, pick his spot between the sticks and strike on the half-volley past Forster.

As the atmosphere intensified and the game again became a battle for victory, Vieira eventually had the chance to send Zaha into action. Saints made a double attacking substitution themselves, changing the makeup of this clash entirely.

Vieira’s arsenal then allowed him to make another bullish substitution: sending Michael Olise onto the field with 15 minutes to conjure two additional points.

But this had been an energetic afternoon in beating coastal sun, and after 80 minutes the game slowed down somewhat. Southampton’s three changes also appeared to make an impact, with the home side attacking a little more regularly.

This led Vieira to solidify his midfield with Will Hughes’ introduction in the 83rd-minute.

As full-time ticked closer Palace continued to knock on Southampton's door, with Olise causing trouble on the right but being largely unable to truly endanger his opposition.

With the final whistle just seconds away the south Londoners may have felt some frustration not to have won, but any growing irritation was soon replaced by elation.

Zaha, introduced to win the game, had his back to goal and four markers encircling him when he collected the ball on the edge of the box.

The game seemed over and his chances of scoring appeared remarkably slim, but the Ivorian showed his trademark drive to spin through the crowd around him and strike low into the net to cap a memorable fightback.

The spirit and ability Palace showed to pull back from an undeserved disadvantage was worth celebrating in itself, and this dying seconds clincher sent a large visiting crowd into raptures.

Vieira said pre-match that he expects the team to compete "as best as we can in the last couple of games.” Based on this showing, it is another correct prediction.

Southampton: Forster, Walker-Peters, Salisu, Bednarek, Perraud, Tella (Elyounoussi 80), Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Redmond, Long (Broja 64), Adams (S. Armstrong 64).

Subs not used: Caballero, Lyanco, A. Armstrong, Djenepo, Smallbone, Valery.

Palace: Guaita, Clyne, Andersen, Guéhi, Ward, Schlupp (Olise 74), McArthur, Gallagher, Eze (Hughes 84), Ayew, Mateta (Zaha 64).

Subs not used: Butland, Mitchell, Tomkins, Kouyaté, Benteke, Edouard.