Saints win from behind to progress at Palace


Southampton progressed to the Emirates FA Cup fourth round with a come-from-behind victory over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

Trailing to Odsonne Édouard’s 14th-minute opener, Saints were second best for much of the first half, and Jordan Ayew rattled the crossbar with a golden chance to double the hosts’ lead before James Ward-Prowse levelled the scores in fortuitous fashion.

The Saints skipper delivered a typically inviting free-kick but was not going for goal himself, so he was as surprised as anyone when the ball eluded the cluster of bodies in the box and nestled inside the far corner of Vicente Guaita’s goal eight minutes before the interval.

Guaita was undone once more midway through the second half as another bizarre goal sealed Saints’ progress, when Adam Armstrong robbed the keeper of possession outside his penalty area and duly slid the ball into the unguarded net.

Nathan Jones made five changes for the tie, as Saints switched to a back four with Lyanco at right-back and Duje Ćaleta-Car replacing the injured Armel Bella-Kotchap.

Elsewhere, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Aribo came into a three-man midfield, with Ché Adams flanked by Samuel Edozie and Armstrong. New signing Mislav Oršić was not included in the matchday squad.

Lyanco’s first test up against the ever-present threat of Wilfried Zaha was one the Brazilian passed with flying colours – quite literally flying, as he threw himself in the way of the tricky winger’s first shot inside five minutes.

Saints’ white shorts were not staying white for long in Lyanco’s case, as the defender slid in once more to block a Zaha cross, before Palace’s talisman jinked inside and fired off a shot that was goalbound until it deflected just over.

Zaha’s telling contribution was not far away, as it was his assist that sent Édouard through on goal, as the striker was too quick for Duje Ćaleta-Car and too clinical for Gavin Bazunu, as his low shot squirmed through the keeper’s legs to open the scoring.

Most of the problems for Saints were coming down the Palace left, and a neat flick from Zaha invited Michael Olise to deliver a low cross that was begging to be finished off in the six-yard box, but the sliding Ayew somehow contrived to lift the ball high enough to cannon against the crossbar.

Saints began to settle with plenty of sustained possession, but were lacking punch at the end of it, and when Palace won the ball back they ought to have taken advantage when Zaha had acres of space to run into, but Édouard’s pass was crucially intercepted by Ćaleta-Car.

In Ward-Prowse, Saints will always possess a threat from set-piece situations, and when the skipper stood over a free-kick near the left corner of the penalty area, he had eyes only for goal.

As usual, his shot was well struck, but Guaita could get across to his near post in good time to punch the ball clear.

When Joe Aribo was fouled by Joel Ward soon after, Ward-Prowse had another opportunity to worry the home defence.

This time, from much further out, his only option was to cross the ball towards the penalty spot, only for every teammate and opponent to miss it, leaving Guaita to watch on in horror as the ball bounced up into the far corner of the net.

Saints had cashed in on their brightest spell, but with eight minutes to go until half time, Palace were keen to regain the advantage.

Olise’s cross from the right took a glancing touch off the head of Maitland-Niles that did not miss Bazunu’s goal by much, before Zaha was wasteful when he jinked inside into shooting territory and blazed over.

A quick counter at the start of the second period offered Saints a promising position, but Edozie was unable to pick out Armstrong to his left with Palace temporarily exposed.

Suddenly there was a bit more bite about Saints’ attacks, as some neat footwork from Maitland-Niles released Edozie once more, before the ball nearly rebounded into the path of Adams, who was just beaten to it by Guaita.

At the other end, Zaha might have done better with a left-footed volley into the stand from Olise’s clipped pass – a difficult chance albeit only eight yards out.

Jones was the first manager to make a change, introducing Sékou Mara for Adams on the hour.

His team were improving with every passing minute. An excellent piece of football down the left was started and finished by Romain Perraud, but the Frenchman was just unable to take Aribo’s pass in his stride with Palace prised open.

With Saints growing in confidence, their reward arrived on 68 minutes. Guaita had all the time in the world to assess his options, but still wanted too long, and Armstrong never gave up, pressurising the goalkeeper into a mistake that invited the goalscorer to walk the ball into the net and turn the tie on its head.

Whilst Zaha had been a fading force in the second half, Jones still introduced Kyle Walker-Peters to diffuse his threat ten minutes from time, though the substitute was beaten rather too easily before Zaha’s shot took a looping deflection of Lyanco and dropped wide.

Ibrahima Diallo and Moussa Djenepo were later called upon to help see the job through, but this was an important confidence booster for a much-improved Saints side.