Danny Ings scored twice as Southampton fought back to beat Crystal Palace in an entertaining Premier League affair.
Ings, returning from a hamstring injury, steered a low effort into the bottom corner to level after Christian Benteke had driven in an early opener for the visitors.
And the hosts, who were thankful for goalkeeper Fraser Forster’s penalty save from Luka Milivojevic, had the better of a seesaw contest after the break.
Che Adams put them ahead with a neat close-range finish from Stuart Armstrong’s corner and Ings latched on to a pass from his strike partner to round off the scoring.
Saints’ first win in five games moves them up to 14th in the table, with Palace in 13th, a point above them.
Ings sparks Saints
With both teams having already secured their Premier League status for next season there was very little riding on this fixture other than pride. But it was far from a typical end-of-season affair.
Benteke’s early goal set the tone for that before Ings took over, pushing his England credentials for the Euros this summer with some superb finishing and excellent link play with Adams.
Had Ings – who has had a stop-start campaign with injuries and after testing positive for Covid-19 – been available throughout the season, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side may have entered the concluding weeks of the season with plenty still to play for.
Having been third in the table in mid-December, this was only Saints’ fourth top-flight victory since the turn of the year.
And their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Leicester in April now appears the defining moment in a campaign that began promisingly but has petered out over recent weeks.
The combination of Ings and Adams, who has doubled his goal tally from last term with eight, does at least provide some encouragement for next term.
As does the enduring form of captain, James Ward-Prowse, who made more passes than any other player and was a driving force from midfield.
If Ward-Prowse is already likely to be under consideration by England coach Gareth Southgate, his colleague Forster was also excellent, making several telling saves, most notably from the penalty spot to suggest he could yet add to his six Three Lions caps.
Palace alter their approach
Unlike many of Crystal Palace’s away trips, this was a performance devoid of the pragmatism upon which manager Roy Hodgson usually insists.
Benteke, Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew were deployed in a front three with Eberechi Eze providing support from midfield. And until Ings scored, the visitors’ bold approach looked to have caught Southampton cold.
Benteke in particular was a handful, and on another night he may have added to his tally through sheer perseverance, bringing the best out of Forster with one stinging drive and seeing several others blocked by defenders.
Zaha, was elusive cutting in from the left and it was his control and touch which drew a foul from Nathan Redmond and provided Milivojevic with the chance to restore their lead.
While equalling their best-ever Premier League finish of 10th now looks beyond them, three consecutive victories to finish could still bring up 50 points for the first time since the English top-flight was reformed in 1992-93.
‘No big gamble’ – what they said
Southampton boss Ralph Hassenhuttl speaking to BBC Sport: “It is the worst thing that should happen, they always score very early, it didn’t kill our game plan because we knew we would have a lot of possession and try to create chances.
“We could have scored even more. We tried to move them around and they had big problems with our attacking stuff. We needed Fraser Forster before half-time because the penalty save was important.”
On Danny Ings: “No big gamble because I left him out against Liverpool and he wanted to play, I knew against Palace I needed his quality in the box and this is what we got today. It is good to see and good for the team. This is Danny Ings.”
On the rest of the season: “To bring as many points as possible, climb a few positions, we know we have had some issues since Christmas – 2020 was fantastic and 2021 so far not, it is now time to turn it around and have a promising ending.
“We will not forget what problems we have and to try to solve them in the summer – we have a small squad and need more players.”
Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson to BBC Sport: “It’s disappointing. It hinges on those two minutes before and after half-time.
“Had we taken the penalty things could have been different. After we went behind I thought we played OK, we had a few chances and we looked as though we had the threat and we decided to throw caution to the wind and of course on the counter attack we concede the third goal.
“Benteke played well again tonight, he was unlucky not to get a second goal. He must be pleased with his night’s work. We aren’t satisfied with the performance but we can’t be accused of not giving it our best shot.
“Football is a constant succession of mountains to climb, we won’t let the club or fans down, we’ll try our best. We want to win the last three games and we’ll have to play at least as well as we did on Saturday.”
Saints’ set-piece threat – the stats
- Southampton have taken seven points from their last three home games (W2 D1), having won just five points from their previous 24 available to them at St Mary’s (W1 D2 L5).
- Only bottom two sides West Bromwich Albion (1) and Sheffield United (0) have kept fewer away clean sheets in the Premier League this season than Crystal Palace (2).
- Crystal Palace have opened the scoring in the second minute in each of their last two Premier League games – they had previously scored in the opening 2 minutes in just three of their 459 matches in the competition.
- Fourteen of Southampton’s 44 Premier League goals this season have come from set-piece situations (excluding penalties), the highest ratio in the division (31.8%). Che Adams’ strike tonight was from a corner.
- Danny Ings’ leveller for Southampton was the 100th in his professional club career in all competitions (now 101). He’s scored more for Saints (46) than he has for any other side (Burnley 43, Bournemouth 8, Liverpool 4).
- Seven of Christian Benteke’s eight Premier League goals for Crystal Palace this season have come away from home, the highest ratio of any player to score at least five times this season (88%).
- Southampton keeper Fraser Forster has saved three of the last five penalties he’s faced in the Premier League, though tonight was his first such stop in the competition since September 2017.
Southampton host relegated Fulham in their next Premier League fixture on Saturday, 15 May (15:00 BST).
Crystal Palace welcome Aston Villa to Selhurst Park for their next top-flight game on Sunday, 16 May (12:00 BST).
- 35BednarekBooked at 44minsSubstituted forSalisuat 45′minutes
- 4VestergaardBooked at 54mins
- 9IngsSubstituted forObafemiat 76′minutes
- 8KouyateBooked at 77mins
- 4MilivojevicSubstituted forSlipat 65′minutes
- 9J AyewBooked at 45minsSubstituted forBatshuayiat 72′minutes
- 20BentekeSubstituted forMatetaat 78′minutes
- 11ZahaBooked at 90mins
- 3van Aanholt
Match ends, Southampton 3, Crystal Palace 1.
Second Half ends, Southampton 3, Crystal Palace 1.
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Jack Stephens (Southampton).
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt missed. Nathan Redmond (Southampton) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by James Ward-Prowse.
Jannik Vestergaard (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Michy Batshuayi (Crystal Palace).
Foul by Michael Obafemi (Southampton).
Cheikhou Kouyaté (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Mohammed Salisu (Southampton).
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Southampton. Conceded by Joel Ward.
Attempt saved. James Ward-Prowse (Southampton) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Attempt blocked. Takumi Minamino (Southampton) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Nathan Redmond.
Michael Obafemi (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jeffrey Schlupp (Crystal Palace).
Michael Obafemi (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Scott Dann (Crystal Palace).
Substitution, Crystal Palace. Jean-Philippe Mateta replaces Christian Benteke.