Saints 1-2 Palace
Crystal Palace dumped Southampton out of the FA Cup for the second season running at St Marys thanks to goals from Joel Ward and Wilfried Zaha, either side of an Oriol Romeu leveller.
Alan Pardew’s men had to come from behind to win last season’s 4th Round tie but they took the lead this time around, through an increasingly likely source - former Portsmouth man Ward. The right back grabbed his third goal of the season, finishing off some good work from Jason Puncheon after a lung busting run. This was the second time that Ward had scored against Southampton, achieving the feat with a late equaliser against the Saints for Pompey back in December 2011.
"A last ditch Dann block on the stroke of half time saved a certain equaliser."
Damien Delaney had already produced a goal saving block and an astonishing headed clearance at the back post to deny Southampton at 0-0, but the hosts could have easily found themselves two behind before the break. Scott Dann met a Jason Puncheon corner six yards from goal but his header glanced wide instead of bursting the net as Palace fans have come to expect from the centre back. However, the Palace centre back made up for it with a last ditch block on the stroke of half time, saving a certain equaliser.
"Yet again, this was a display of tactical acuteness from Pardew that so many Newcastle fans have told the world that he lacks."
Southampton’s early dominance was born out of controlling the centre of midfield but Alan Pardew responded. He moved Puncheon from the left and into the middle and had Jordon Mutch move to a narrower left midfield role. The extra man in the middle gave Palace more chances to get on the ball and the visitors ended the half with more possession than their opponents. Yet again, this was a display of tactical acuteness from Pardew that so many Newcastle fans have told the world that he lacks.
Whatever Ronald Koeman said at half time, coupled with his double substitution, worked and his charges came out the gate with much more vigour in the second half – and the Dutchman was rewarded within just six minutes. Wayne Hennessey, who was once again brilliant in the Palace goal, denied Cuco Martina from close range, but the ball deflected into the path of Romeu who couldn’t miss from close range.
"The notorious Irish Diver drilled the ball towards the bottom corner but the Welsh stopper was quick to get down and parry the ball wide."
Hennessey, fresh off the back of his Palace Player of the Month Award, was called into action on the hour. Delaney put in a sterling tackle on Saido Mane in the area only for the ball to drop straight to Shane Long. The notorious Irish Diver drilled the ball towards the bottom corner but the Welsh stopper was quick to get down and parry the ball wide.
Fraizer Campbell was working tirelessly up front for the visitors and finally got his reward on 68 minutes. The Palace number nine did not give up on an over hit cross and retrieved the ball before passing to Puncheon. The former Saint cut inside and curled a right footed shot goalwards, only for Stekelenburg to pull off a stop for the cameras. Everything about the angle of the goalkeepers dive said the ball should have been turned over the crossbar. Instead, the ball stayed in play and Zaha was on hand to volley home on the stretch and send the noisy, and sizeable, away support into raptures behind the goal.
Palace then spent ten minutes hunting for the killer goal, but it would not come and resulted in the Eagles having to weather a late Southampton storm that rivalled the southcoast downpour that the players were having to endure.
First, Hennessey again had to get down low, to deny Juanmi this time, before a flurry of chances in added time somehow did not lead to a Southampton equaliser. Jose Fonte, celebrating his 6 year anniversary since joining the Saints from Palace, saw his header from close range deflected over. From the resulting corner Long rattled the post with another header.
Then with time almost up, Mane broke away from Ledley, but the bearded Welshman upended his man, took the yellow card and gave James Ward-Prowse the chance to force a replay with a free kick. The young midfielder curled the ball around the wall and towards the bottom corner but Hennessey flew across the goal to get the latest of touches on the ball and deflect it wide.
With that the game was won and Palace marched onto the fourth round of the FACup . A Cup that they would so dearly love to win.
Man of the Match: Jason Puncheon
It’s January and that means that Punch has arrived. One Palace goal before the New Year since arriving at Palace, with twelve goals after the turn of the year, tells us all that Punch is a second half of the season player. It is impossible to explain why this is the case but his performance in this one suggests that the trend may continue this season.
He didn’t get on the scoresheet in this one but he was the reason that Palace scored twice, assisting the first and, effectively, the second.
Aside from the assists, he was busy in both linking play and defensively minded work. I lost count of the amount of times that he dispossessed Southampton players in very dangerous areas, and then started an attack off the back of his defensive endeavour.
Yet again, we have a new, free, signing in the January transfer window. Another six goals between now and May please, Punch.
He run Puncheon very close in the man of the match stakes and I feel that it would be amiss not to give him a section of his own. It is quiet incredible that he can still manage to put this level of performance in. Everything he does always seems to be last ditch but he times it with perfection almost every time.
After his error led to the crucial first goal against Chelsea last weekend, it was important for him to bounce back and he certainly did.
Great work, Damo.
Palace Fans – The Sublime and the Ridiculous
It was a bizarre day in the away end.
There were periods that we were at our very loud best. The structure of the stadium was literally moving under the strain of our bouncing and with smoke bombs accompanying both goals, it was like a party in the rain.
Then out of nowhere, a couple of Palace fans started fighting each other. If I am honest, I am surprised that this doesn’t happen more often at football. A lot of alcohol is consumed and emotions can run very high – but it was a shock to see nonetheless. I’m not sure what singing “We’re Crystal Palace, we fight our own fans” added to the occasion, however.
More ridiculousness is Palace fans’ impatient responses to when we try to play passing football. Now this is by no means a large majority, but a fair amount of Palace fans were getting restless and shouting at the players to move for each other and get the ball forward quicker. This was during a period of play in which Palace kept hold of the ball for over a minute and probably completed more passes than we did in the entire time that Neil Warnock was at the Club last season!
Sure, patient build up play is a new phenomenon in our neck of the woods, but try to understand what it does in pulling apart the oppositions shape. This then leads to sudden explosions of forward movement, which is much in keeping with our fast attacking play of the past. This is a slightly less efficient way to do it in terms of the number of passes needed to achieve the attacking movement, but as long as we have the ball at our feet, the opposition are doing the chasing and that works in our favour. Give it a chance – you will prefer it in the long run, I assure you.
Up Next: Aston Villa
What’s that Villa? You haven’t won in forever? And Mark Clattenburg is the referee? Here, have the three points.
Well, that is exactly how I would have thought in the past, but I am slowly starting to get used to things being a little different these days. Although saying that clearly leaves me thinking that I have jinxed it. We shall see on Tuesday night.
Come on you Palace!