Last Updated on 30 Apr 2022 11:02 pm (UK Time)
The chance was afforded to me to watch the clash between Southampton and Crystal Palace (30th April 2022 at 3pm).
In this article, I will give a rundown of the match and my thoughts on what these sides need going into next season.
The Match itself (Sloppy Southampton)
Southampton started the match in 13th, just one place above their visitors (having played an extra match). They could have climbed as high as 9th with a win but their poor play has seen them slip to 15th, after Aston Villa’s 2-0 win against Norwich. Steven Gerrard’s men ultimately relegated Norwich, in a cruel twist of irony to former Villa and current Norwich boss, Dean Smith.
The Saints started the better of the two sides and had the louder of the fans (albeit with the majority of the 30,000 attending being home fans), this great start was rewarded with a goal from Oriol Romeu on 9 minutes. Set-piece expert James Ward-Prowse whipped in a delightful corner to the back stick and Romeu rose highest to head the ball in off the bar and give Southampton the lead.
Both teams struggled to create many chances with Palace’s joy coming from Jordan Ayew’s battle with Romain Peraud (on Palace’s right) and a feisty duel between Jean-Phillipe Mateta and Jan Bednarek, the two were shown yellow cards for a scuffle off the ball as Palace tried to find an equaliser.
Fraser Forster was forced into a save at his near-post from Mateta, and from the resulting corner, a smart save from a Jordan Ayew flicked header before comfortably catching the James McArthur follow-up header.
Southampton were somewhat fortunate to be 1-0 up at the half as they had done very little to challenge Vincent Guitia in the Palace goal (other than Romeu outjumping Jeffrey Schlupp and scoring the opener.)
Second Half- Crystal Palace begin to dominate
For Southampton’s lead you could imagine that the fans would be happy but certainly those around me were all too aware of the complacency creeping into the game. Southampton began to rush with the ball, lacking the calm composure you so often associate with the Premier League.
The number of needless give-aways of the ball began to increase, as did the nerves and frustration of the fans in red and white.
In fact it was from one of these misplaced passes that the goal came about, Adams played it too short to Oriol Romeu, who had to slide in to win the ball ahead of James McArthur. This tackle fell into the path of Joachim Andersen who played a simple ball into Jean-Phillipe Mateta.
The Frenchman, who had dropped deep to receive the ball, played it to James McArthur, who had an overload to his right, playing the ball into the feet of Jordan Ayew. Nathaniel Clyne breezed past his winger to provide the option, and the Ghanaian duly obliged, allowing Clyne to whip the ball to the far post.
This fell right to the path of the only unmarked man in the box, unfortunately it was Ebrechi Eze, who was coolest customer on the South Coast nutmegging Fraser Forster at his near-post (1-1). The goal was very much with the run of play and was what Crystal Palace deserved (less from their own performance and more from the ability to harass and press Southampton.) The goal was on the hour mark.
In response, changes were made by Ralph Hausenheuttl, he brought on Chelsea loanee Armando Broja and Stuart Armstrong to replace the workhorse that is, Shane Long and Che Adams (who had a rather poor performance).
Palace also made a change bringing off Mateta and bringing on Wilfried Zaha (this sub was planned before the goal anyway as Vieira had called him over from his warm-up).
These changes did little to change the mood or flow of the game, any chances Southampton had were crosses that were easily cleared or loose shots from the edge of the box (Ward-Prowse and Stuart Armstrong). Palace looked the more likely and more deserving to win as a large amount of the Southampton fans began trickling out with 10 minutes to go.
They thought it was all over, even I did as I turned to the man sitting beside me and commented on what had been a rather dire second half performance from Southampton Fc, but it was not over.
Joel Ward played the ball into James McArthur, the next ball was rolled into Wilfried Zaha with his back to goal. He turned Jan Bednarek and Mohammed Salisu was too slow to close him as the shot was fired towards the near post. As it kissed the inside of the left post, Fraser Forster and the Southampton faithful knew they were beaten, in the 90+3 minute.
Slightly confused by the cupped ears celebration, as he was celebrating in front of the away fans
As one of the fans in the section said “if you play like this, you deserve to lose” and honestly I can’t help but agree with him, they were so quick out of the blocks that I was expecting a great performance but the way they capitulated and let a decent, but not great, Palace side defeat them was poor.
I overheard another fan saying “Crystal Palace are our competition, we have to be winning those games at home.” Once again, they needed to get at least a point to have hope for a top ten finish, the late goal may have crushed these hopes and leave the Saints in the bottom half for the fifth consecutive season (not since an 8th place finish in 2016/2017).
There was some talk of complacency under Ralph with another season of finishing in the bottom half showing a lack of improvement, particularly in a season where the inconsistent nature of the league has been perfectly suited to a side like Southampton.
Player Ratings (Southampton)
Fraser Forster- 7
Was nothing special but had a hand in keeping Palace at bay for a while, will have been disappointed to be nutmegged for the opener, the winner was a great strike in which he had no hope in saving.
Kyle Walker-Peters- 6
Went missing in the second half, put in a shift but was nothing special, was not the worst Saints performer but not the best either.
Jan Bednarek- 5
Was having a decent if not uneventful afternoon (barring the Mateta incident) until he was turned by Zaha for the winner, as he was mostly at fault for the goal his rating takes a hit.
Mohamed Salisu- 5
Another culprit at the back for the winner, he was too slow and cautious in closing down Zaha’s shot, I understand the fatigue and tiredness but it was practically the last minute and last action he would have had to do. Had a head injury earlier on but should be fine for their next match.
Romain Peraud- 4
Got beaten far too easily be Jordan Ayew throughout this match as their only real chances appeared to be on his side. Delivered a decent corner but did very little else going forward.
Oriol Romeu- 7
Was probably the best performer for the Saints, tracked back well and put in a shift. Scored the opener and made some decent runs from midfield but did give the ball away a few times.
James Ward-Prowse- 7
Seemed to be the only real threat for Southampton, his set-piece deliveries are normally better however and a few free-kick opportunities were wasted through poor technique. That being said, the only way Southampton looked like scoring was through him.
Nathan Tella- 5
Had a quiet game, was substituted late on for Mohammed Elyounoussi as Southampton looked for a winner.
Nathan Redmond- 4
One of the worst performers for Southampton, looked disinterested and struggled to beat his man, with this being Joel Ward, he has always been a bit of an enigma to me because he has potential to be very good and has shown glimpses at Norwich and Southampton but is very inconsistent.
Shane Long- 6.5
It would be difficult to give Shane Long a 7 because he did not provide much attacking threat but you can see why he is loved on the South Coast as he kept putting the effort in by pressing and hassling defenders, I was surprised he was starting today due to his age (35, no spring chicken) and his 1 goal in 12 matches but he put in a shift.
Che Adams- 3
Constantly giving away the ball, I remember him trying a cute flick to play Shane Long in but was on a totally different wavelength, was not surprised to see him hooked after 60 mins.
Stuart Armstrong- 4
Difficult to rate as he had one wayward shot and came on in a period where Palace were dominant, could have done better but the result was not entirely down to him.
Armando Broja- 4
Could blame this one on Ralph, Broja looked sluggish as Southampton began aimlessly trying to play long balls, the lack of movement was an issue but Southampton really needed two strikers on at the end to challenge the back four.
Mohamed Elyounoussi- 5
Given an average rating because he had 10 minutes and there was very little he could have done with that, considering the circumstances.
Manger: Ralph Hasenhuttl – 3
It was a surprise that he did not bring on Adam Armstrong, instead opting for one striker and a midfield 5, this was a brave choice as the tactics went out of the window and Southampton resorted to kicking clear at every attempt. It is clear that this was not his finest hour and either his inability to get the players to calm down and play with the ball or his tactics of having Broja as a target man did not work against the competent partnership of Guehi and Andersen.
Southampton are an ambitious club who have failed to see great success for five seasons now, how long will Ralph be allowed to do just enough.
Player Ratings (Crystal Palace)
Vincente Guaita- 6
Nothing to really fault him but nothing to write home about, Southampton failed to really challenge him and the first goal was not his fault.
Nathaniel Clyne – 7
The assist for Eze alone deserves a high rating, he did not give up on a ball going out of play and found the open man, the dream a manager has for a modern-full back. Was decent at the back as well.
Joachim Andersen – 7
Had more control of the game than the Southampton centre-halves, looked more assured on the ball and comfortable from corners as well, a good performance.
Marc Guehi – 7
Similar to Andersen, looked the part and played the part as well, if he continues to play well then a spot at the World Cup in 2022 may be likely.
Joel Ward – 6
Solid if not amazing, had a part in the winner as he played in James McArthur but it was a typical Joel Ward performance nothing too classy but dependable.
James McArthur – 7
Had more control in the midfield in the second half as Palace dominated, played the crucial pass for Zaha’s late winner and will be pleased with his efforts. Picked up a yellow for a break-away pullback.
Connor Gallagher – 8
Most of Palace’s great play came through him, often goals and assists do not tell the story and this was the case today. Gallagher made space for himself in the midfield and was able to run at the Southampton defence causing panic stations at the back, A personal highlight of mine was when he threw his arms up in disgust after Jared Gillett waved away his penalty shout in the second half.
Jeffery Schlupp – 5
Struggled to provide a forward gear for Crystal Palace and was replaced in the 74th minute by Michael Olise as Palace pushed for a winner, was also the man beaten to the header by Romeu for the opener.
Ebrechi Eze – 7
Had a rather quiet first half but showed his quality with the goal, this Palace side has some very impressive forwards and he has come on leaps and bounds in his game since moving from QPR. Would not be surprised if a top six side were to sign the winger as he is top class.
Jean Phillipe-Mateta – 6.5
Very similar to Shane Long, caused the defenders problems but without the end product, saw a shot sliced over (someone shouted like Bambi on ice) and toyed with Jan Bednarek in the first half. He left the pitch after the Eze goal and was replaced by the matchwinner Zaha.
Jordan Ayew – 7
Decent, had the run-around of Peraud on the wing and was intelligent in playing in Clyne for Palace’s equaliser. This role seems to suit Jordan Ayew as he has moved away from a central role due to the signings of Mateta and Eduoard.
Wilfried Zaha – 8
It is clear to see why he was touted by some of the biggest clubs in the world, over the years, whilst he may not be the most consistent the sharpness in his turn and shot proved why he is one of the best players outside the top six. It is crazy to think he is only 29, considering his breakthrough season being in 2011 at the Eagles.
Michael Olise – 6
Looked sharp after coming on, the highlight for me was when he did an overhead kick clearance from just outside his own box during one of Southampton’s rare forays into the Palace half in the second 45.
Will Hughes – 5
Could have scored with his first touch but the shot was blocked, other than that he did not have much time to make an impact, so the rating is not entirely fair but just based on time played.
Manager: Patrick Vieira 7 – Made the easy decisions and did not overthink himself. He could have cancelled the Zaha sub when they equalised but he made the right choice, brought off the player who struggled the most, Schlupp, and made a change to consolidate the midfield battle, which they won. Crystal Palace deserved the win and his changes were much better and more effective than his counterpart.
Brentford (A) – Will be a difficult game to bounce back as the Bees have picked up 10 points in their last four.
Liverpool (H) – A free-hit, not much is expected but could be crucial in the title race.
Leicester (A) – Another tough test to round out the season, fortunately the Saints are basically safe.
Southampton will be disappointed with the result as a win would have put the in the top half but a defeat sees them fall below their opponents, Crystal Palace, it very much seemed like the players were already on the beach but the Saints will need some signings, particularly a creative winger/midfielder to make strides next season.
Player to look out for: James Ward-Prowse : There are rumours that the Saints captain could join a long list of Saints moving to Anfield. He would join Virgil Van Dijk, Sadio Mane (current team-mates) and be in the list with Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Nathaniel Clyne, should he make the switch to Liverpool.
Crystal Palace have the chance to relegate their London rivals, Watford, who need to win and hope that Leeds (Arsenal) and Burnley (Aston Villa), just to stay alive another week.
Aston Villa, Everton and Manchester United
One match against a side that should be safe, they also could relegate Everton (based on results), before being Ralf Ragnick’s last game in charge of the Red Devils.
Player to watch out for: Eberechi Eze: Eze is a target of newly crowned ‘richest club in the world’ Newcastle United and with the progression and form of the Magpies under Eddie Howe, it may be very difficult for the 23 Year-old to turn it down.
Overall, a game which was decided by the individual quality of two of the best players on the pitch rather than a great all-round performance from Crystal Palace, this will not keep Vieira awake because as Venus Williams once said “win pretty, win ugly, just win”.