Palace 1-0 Saints
Alan Pardew broke yet another Crystal Palace record as his Eagles made it two home wins on the bounce for the first time since April. In twelve previous attempts Palace had failed to beat Southampton in the Premier League, with only four draws and eight defeats. With Pardew overseeing Palace scoring five for the first time in a Premier League fixture in Palace’s previous home match against Newcastle, it would appear that the gaffer is in the mood to break records against his former Clubs.
Ronald Koeman, after the match, suggested that if Shane Long had scored in injury time, instead of finding the legs of the inspired Wayne Hennessey, then Southampton would have gained the point that they deserved from the game – personally, I think that he needs to lay off smoking that stuff that it is legal in his home country of The Netherlands. But for an excellent performance from Paulo Gazzaniga in between the Saints’ sticks and some wayward finishing for the hosts, the margin could have been much wider.
Yohan Cabaye scored the only goal of the game, his fifth of the season, after Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie had combined on the right before the latter breezed past former Palace man Jose Fonte and centred for Cabaye, who had all the time in the world when tapping home from six yards out – such was the brilliance performance of Gazzaniga, he even managed to get a hand onto the Frenchman’s effort. This was Bolasie's first registered assits since March, an astonishing stat.
"The Southampton number eight was already wheeling away in celebration before the big Welshman somehow managed to palm the headed effort over the bar."
At 0-0 Wayne Hennessey had produced his second world class save in five days, following up his super finger tipped save at Everton on Monday night, with a full stretch dive to prevent a Steven Davis header. The Southampton number eight was already wheeling away in celebration before the big Welshman somehow managed to palm the headed effort over the bar. The replay was shown three times on the big screen above the goal that Hennessey was defending and each time, the applause from the crowd went up in volume, ending with an almighty cheer from the Holmesdale Road stand.
Unlike Steve McClaren, Koeman obviously paid attention to the way that Sunderland came to Selhurst Park a few weeks ago and managed to stifle Bolasie and Zaha by playing five at the back. The Dutchman followed suit with an identical 5-3-2 formation, but Danny Murphy, on Match of the Day, suggested that this may have been the reason for the downfall. Pardew and his boys had clearly learned from the lessons that Sam Allardyce gave on that Monday night and looked far more inventive when looking to break down the increased numbers at the back.
Bolasie, Cabaye and Wickham had all tested Gazzaniga before the Palace number seven opened the scoring on 38 minutes and Wickham and Bolasie both tested him after. On top of that, Zaha twice fired over from just inside the Southampton area. Meanwhile, the visitors were limited to efforts from range, with Hennessey only being seriously tested twice, first from Davis and then by Long with practically the last kick of the game.
Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha
These two are worth the entrance fee alone at the moment. Ryan Bertrand, Cedric Soares and the rest of the Southampton back line struggled over and over again to handle their pace, power and direct play.
Bertrand, England’s left back, had to resort to this to try and stop Zaha:
Surely Roy Hodgson is out of reasons why he should not include Wilf in the England squad going forward. In recent weeks he has destroyed both of England’s full backs so there isn’t much else he needs to do to prove himself in my eyes.
As for Yannick Bolasie, yet again a trip away with DR Congo (the last international break) has resulted in him coming back an even better player (2 goals, 1 assist and 3 sterling performances). Pardew wants to play him through the middle more and more, especially at home, and in the past I have not believed that Bolasie has it in his locker to consistently play well in this position. However, in the last two home matches he has shown how much of a problem he can be with the attributes that he possesses, especially when combined with the centre forward like movement that he has displayed in recent weeks.
He was unlucky not to surpass his goal tally from last season in this one, seeing Gazzaniga somehow save his incredible back post volley and on current form it is not inconceivable that he could go on to score between ten to fifteen goals this season. Then he is truly worth the £20million that Pardew talks of.
The Return of Jason Puncheon is Imminent
The main difference between the defeat against the 5-3-2 employed by Sunderland and the victory of the 3-5-2 of Southampton was the performance of Jason Puncheon.
Against Sunderland he was hauled off at half time as he appeared devoid of ideas of how to break Sunderland down and could not create situations for Zaha and Bolasie to exploit, or even simply keep hold of the ball for that matter. In this match he made the right decisions consistently, either driving forward or spreading the ball wide to either Zaha or Bolasie, when he roamed out to the flanks, and the building of pressure that he created by constantly, along with Cabaye and James McArthur, asking questions of the Southampton defence was vital to the win.
There were signs of it late in the Everton game as well, as Punch started to pick apart Everton late in the game as the play opened up and with this performance added on top – it looks like the new year Puncheon is about to arrive.
Man of the Match: Wayne Hennessey
The aforementioned Jason Puncheon, Wilfried Zaha, Yannick Bolasie or Yohan Cabaye, who produced a “masterclass” according to Alan Pardew, could easily have won the award on any other day. However, the fact of the matter is, without the two crucial saves from Hennessey we would have, somewhat criminally, lost this match.
He has had his critics, including myself, since arriving at Palace but his performances of late have moved up a few levels and he is now producing the sort of saves that he did for Wales in the Euro Qualifiers, in the Crystal Palace shirt. “Wayne has cemented his position” said the boss after the match and he will get no arguments from this quarter.
Up Next: Stoke City
Stoke have been in good form of late and have been creeping up the table, with their brilliant 2-0 win against Manchester City being talked about as their best ever Premier League performance. Pardew, however, will be confident that our away form can continue and this should result in another great match between two in form teams.
A win here and then all of a sudden we have two matches against struggling teams and could legitimately end the calendar year in the top four! But we all know that it is never that easy.
Come on you Palace!