Southampton’s unbeaten run in the Premier League was ended on the opening day of the new season as Wilfried Zaha’s volley gave Crystal Palace a 1-0 win at Selhurst Park.
Saints, who were on their longest unbeaten run since 2013, could not recover from conceding early on in the first half as Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace secured all three points.
Ralph Hassenhuttl named Kyle Walker-Peters in his starting 11, as the former Tottenham man signed a permanent deal with the Saints in the summer after his successful loan at St Mary’s last season. There was no place in the team for fellow new defender Mohammed Salisu, as the 21-year-old settles into life in England following his move from Real Valladolid.
Southampton started well early on, as an early header from Jack Stephens was saved easily by Palace’s Spanish ‘keeper Vincente Guaita, before Danny Ings had a close-range shot saved after some good build-up play from Oriol Romeu and Ryan Bertrand.
Hassenhuttl will understandably be disappointed, as despite this early dominance it was Palace who took the lead on 13 minutes, as Alex McCarthy could do nothing to stop Zaha’s right-footed volley into the back of the net.
It was this strike from Zaha – a man constantly linked with a move away from Selhurst Park – that instilled confidence in the Eagles. Suddenly, Saints looked like they were on the back foot, with Palace constantly trying to expose them for their high defensive line. Good chances for Zaha and Townsend couldn’t close the game off for Palace, leaving Southampton still with a chance to come back in the second half.
However, it was debutant (at least, making his debut as a permanent Southampton player) Kyle Walker-Peters who was sent off a few minutes into the second half after a high boot on 21-year-old Palace defender Tyrick Mitchell. The new season’s first red card was soon overturned, though, as referee Jon Moss went to the pitchside monitor to downgrade the card to a yellow.
It was another counter-attack which nearly caught Southampton out, with Mitchell and Ayew linking up well before Zaha’s shot was cleared by Vestegaard, a half-time substitution for the Saints.
Palace doubled their lead with another finish from Zaha, but it was flagged for offside before good build-up from Palace debutant Eberechi Eze, who joined from fellow Londoners QPR, saw Palace come close to doubling their lead.
A last roll of the dice saw Shane Long come on but Roy Hodgson’s side held on to seal all three points at the start of the new season despite losing the battles of possession or shots on goal.
For Southampton, their opening-day rut continues – they haven’t won on the opening day in the Premier League in the last seven seasons. They face Brentford on Wednesday in the Carabao Cup.
FT: Crystal Palace 1-0 SOUTHAMPTON (Zaha 13′).
Crystal Palace: Guaita, Ward, Kouyaté, Dann, Mitchell, Townsend, McArthur, J. McCarthy (booked) (Milivojevic 74′), Schlupp (booked) (Eze 81′), Zaha, J. Ayew. Unused Subs: Meyer, Hennessey, Batshuayi, Kelly, Woods.
Southampton: A. McCarthy, Walker-Peters (booked), Stephens, Bednarek (Vestegaard 45′), Bertrand, Smallbone (Djenepo 77′), Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Redmond, Adams (Long 85′), Ings. Unused Subs: Obafemi, Tella, Vokins, Forster.
Wessex Scene Man of the Match: Vicente Guaita (Crystal Palace).
Referee: Jonathan Moss