Saints play out entertaining draw


Southampton bounced back from an early setback at Selhurst Park to take a first-half lead, eventually taking home a well-earned point from south-east London.

Saints were second best out of the blocks and fell behind inside two minutes to Wilfried Zaha’s opener, before Willy Caballero made an important stop to prevent a second.

But a sublime James Ward-Prowse free-kick, ranking alongside any of his previous efforts, levelled the scores before Armando Broja produced another bolt from the blue to turn the game on its head at the interval.

Palace’s strong start to the second half was rewarded by Jordan Ayew’s 65th-minute equaliser, following up another Caballero save, but Saints finished strongly and might have taken maximum points from an engaging contest.

Ralph Hasenhüttl welcomed back Oriol Romeu and Mohammed Salisu from suspension, the latter partnered by Lyanco, while there was a first start since January for Will Smallbone.

Jack Stephens, Jan Bednarek and Ibrahima Diallo dropped out, along with the injured Adam Armstrong, who joined strike partner Ché Adams in the treatment room.

For all Hasenhüttl’s will for Saints to be more solid, he watched his side fall behind inside two minutes.

Romeu was caught in possession by Will Hughes, albeit with a tackle from behind that might have been penalised, and Palace were away.

When Odsonne Édouard fed Zaha to his left Saints were in trouble, and the winger made them pay as he was afforded too much time to jink inside and wrongfoot Caballero with a shot back across the keeper inside the near post.

Saints were rocking under a typically lively Selhurst Park atmosphere, and needed Caballero to make a smart save with his foot to prevent James Tomkins doubling the lead soon after.

Once the visitors had time to breathe again, they found a foothold. Ward-Prowse stepped aside for Smallbone to deliver a free-kick from the left on to the head of Broja, whose glancing touch was easily held by Jack Butland.

Then Broja fed Smallbone as Saints broke at pace, but the youngster went for goal on his less favoured left foot and could not hit the target from 20 yards.

Romeu’s ambitious rising drive from distance that sailed a yard over underlined Saints’ intent to bounce back, but in Zaha Palace have a constant counter-attacking threat, and the goalscorer’s teasing low cross deserved a better finish from Édouard, who could only steer the chance wide.

It was an isolated moment of alarm since that frantic first 10 minutes, and Saints’ growing confidence was evident when a fluent piece of football resulted in a free-kick given for a Hughes trip on Broja.

Ward-Prowse had a couple of sighters at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, but this was the first time he’s been stood over one in prime position for some time.

No panic for the skipper, who eyed up his favourite corner, to the keeper’s right, and struck an unstoppable set-piece from a central area, 25 yards out, that swerved exquisitely away from Butland’s dive and nestled into the top corner in trademark fashion.

Saints had a goal to show for their encouraging response to the early setback, but were not content with just being on level terms.

Four minutes later, Broja picked up the ball midway inside the Palace half, strode forward and planted a sweet strike of his own into the same corner from a similar spot – this time taking the low road, as the ball picked up pace off the surface and zipped past Butland.

Broja’s powerful running was a constant outlet for Saints, and twice the Albanian forward galloped to the byeline and cut the ball back, but was unable to pick out a teammate as Palace ended the half on the ropes, just as their visitors had started it.

Converting winning positions into victories has been a recurring problem for Saints, so the importance of a third goal will not have been lost on Hasenhüttl and his players.

Instead it was Palace hunting a route back into the contest, forcing Livramento into a perfectly-timed tackle to snuff out an attack when Saints looked exposed.

Then Salisu stretched in vain, allowing Édouard to sneak in behind, but Caballero was out sharply, making one save with his chest and a second with an outstretched arm as Lyanco covered the goal line just in case.

The Argentinian made another reaction stop, sticking out his left foot to thwart Édouard, but Ayew was in the right place to squeeze in the rebound as the Eagles drew level 20 minutes into the second half.

Hasenhüttl’s response was to introduce Moussa Djenepo for his first league appearance in two months and Shane Long for his first in three months, as Smallbone and Broja departed with 70 minutes on the clock.

The changes gave Saints fresh impetus. Long instantly got his head to a free-kick, though Butland’s catch was a simple one, before Tomkins conceded he did not have the pace to catch Nathan Tella and cynically brought him down.

The youngster made way for Theo Walcott in the closing stages, but Joel Ward’s wild shot over the bar was the best chance for either side to win it.