28/09/2013: Saints 2-0 Crystal Palace
Saints - Osvaldo (47) Lambert (49)
Attendance: 30,699 (3,190 Crystal Palace fans)
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Saints moved up to fourth with a comfortable 2-0 win over Crystal Palace. The home side just about edged it in the first half, but were left frustrated in the final third. Palace were blitzed at the start of the second half, and the game was as good as over when Lambert scored.
Mauricio Pochettino made one change to the side that won at Anfield, with Steven Davis coming in for Jay Rodriguez. Davis operated deep on the left-hand side, but was given licence to move inside, in an effort to link play from the back to the forward players. Adam Lallana started on the right, but also drifted between roles. Palace lined up with two banks of four and a very deep midfield. The Eagles looked to hit Saints on the counter, with forwards Dwight Gayle and Marouane Chamakh relentlessly closing down. The home side built from the back slowly and patiently, but were kept fairly quiet by a disciplined opponent. Palace deserve credit for at least trying to play football the right way. They were presented with a great chance on 31. Chamakh broke free on goal, going down before the advancing Artur Boruc. On first viewing it looked a certain penalty, but replays suggested the referee was right to caution Chamakh for diving. Saints did have a few good chances before the break. Rickie Lambert scooped the ball just over the bar from the edge of the area, following a neat interchange between Lallana and Dani Osvaldo. Lambert then tested Palace keeper Julian Speroni with a free-kick. Victor Wanyama blasted wide from distance just before the half-time whistle.
Saints stepped it up after the break, and effectively put the game to bed within five minutes. Osvaldo opened his account from outside the box, with a powerful shot that slipped through Speroni's grasp. It marked the first time Saints have scored from open play in the league this season. Lambert netted the second on 49, with a free-kick which went in off the post. Saints remained in the ascendancy for the next 10 minutes or so. Lambert, Davis and Osvaldo all had efforts on goal. The action soon settled down however. Saints allowed Palace time on the ball in their own half, but gave little away in the areas that mattered. Mauricio Pochettino's men were able to conserve their energy and kill off the game. Cameron Jerome - the man who broke Saints hearts at Stoke last season - summed up Palace's day by firing over the bar inside the area late on. The visitors did play some decent stuff on occasions, but the gulf in class was just too much for them in the end.
A routine win for Pochettino and co. Saints weren't as flowing as they could have been perhaps, but did what they had to do. There was never a time when we looked in danger of not winning once we went ahead. Defensively we looked as solid as ever. It's an unbelievable turnaround from where we were this time last year. Dejan Lovren looks like the signing of the summer at the moment. He brings so much to the table on his own, but also brings out the best in his defensive partner Jose Fonte. Further forward things are improving too. I thought the inclusion of Steven Davis gave us a little bit more balance. Lambert and Osvaldo worked fairly well together too. We could still do with upping our game slightly in the final third, but for now we should enjoy the moment. Saints probably won't be above Man United, Man City and Liverpool forever, but while we are lets make the most of it. That said, outside the traditional big five or six, we look as strong as anyone else in the league right now.
Boruc: 7. The showman was always cool under pressure in what was a relatively easy afternoon
Clyne: 7. Uncharacteristically sloppy in possession at times, but excellent defensively
Fonte: 8. The man who so many were writing off twelve months ago continues to prove his worth as a top level defender
Lovren: 8. Another spotless showing. Some wonderfully timed tackles
Shaw: 7. A pretty comfortable afternoon. Decent at both ends of the pitch
Schneiderlin: 7. A solid workman like display from the Frenchman
Wanyama: 7. Difficult one to rate again. Passing poor at times once again, but does so well to break up the play and shield the ball
Davis: 7. As touched upon above, linked play between midfield and attack. Always showing for the ball
Lallana: 7. Particularly effective during the first hour. Subbed again, but this time his job was done
Osvaldo: 7. Deserved his goal. Looked sharp throughout
Lambert: 7. A much improved performance. Involved in most of the good attacking moves put together by Saints, plus a wonder goal
Ward-Prowse: 6. Kept it simple, helping to close out the game
Rodriguez: Nearly presented with a chance near the end, but couldn't quite get on the end of a through ball
Ramirez: Nothing major to note