Within 60 sloppy seconds all of Sam Allardyce’s hard work of late unravelled as Crystal Palace’s relegation worries were re-intensified by defeat at Southampton. Although Premier League survival remains in their own hands – just about – the manager believes his team have the toughest run-in of those fighting relegation.
Southampton made relatively painful viewing in front of goal before Maya Yoshida and then James Ward-Prowse popped up to undo Palace’s backline and earn their first win at home since January.
In a trice, Allardyce’s record of having never lost in the Premier League at St Mary’s was over and Palace’s four-match winning run came to an abrupt end. Christian Benteke had opened the scoring – rounding off a superb team move with his 13th goal of the season – but Southampton rallied and eventually took the points.
“I am disappointed in the team opening themselves up so easily in the last few minutes,” Allardyce said. “The way we lost it, we showed some great defensive resilience these last few games and that went missing in the last few minutes when we needed it.
“We are not normally like that, I don’t know why we did what we did but we will have to look at it. It should have been, ‘See the game out lads, terrific result after three points at Chelsea’, we should have had more responsibility as a team to make sure Southampton did not score.”
Allardyce was just as livid with the assistant referee for his decision not to award a foul against Steven Davis, who robbed Wilfried Zaha on the byline in the buildup to Nathan Redmond’s equaliser just before half-time.
“It is a diabolical decision that the assistant referee did not make on Zaha,” he said. “They are very difficult decisions sometimes they have to make but this was so easy and it cost us not being 1-0 up at half-time.”
Southampton, who came into this game with two wins from their past eight matches, were in no mood for any slip-ups. The troublesome penalty spot from which Bournemouth’s Harry Arter had spectacularly missed on Saturday, was re-laid with a patch of hybrid turf to ensure the surface was 100% firm. There were a couple of personnel changes too, with Shane Long preferred to Jay Rodriguez up front and Ryan Bertrand absent.
Long was Southampton’s biggest culprit in front of goal, thrice guilty of missing from close range. The Saints could have had a penalty too, but the referee, Roger East, dismissed appeals of handball against Jeffrey Schlupp. Palace always looked a threat, with Benteke bullying Jack Stephens at times and Luka Milivojevic earlier rattling the outside of a stanchion on Fraser Forster’s goal.
Southampton, though, kept pressing. Davis was denied by Mamadou Sakho and Damien Delaney but eventually Palace’s defence capsized, with Yoshida tapping home at the back post from Redmond’s cross and Ward-Prowse adding a simple third less than a minute later.
“With all of the opportunities we could have scored many goals and we would have not been able to accept just a draw at the end,” said Southampton’s manager Claude Puel.
A night that started so well got away from Palace, who also lost Yohan Cabaye to a calf strain. But it was the pain on Allardyce’s face at full-time that told the biggest story, with the Palace manager saying his team must “get a result” against Arsenal on Monday. “I think we have got the hardest run-in of all the teams down there and that is why we had to get a result tonight,” the manager added.