24/01/2015: Saints 2-3 Crystal Palace
Saints were dumped out of the FA Cup 4th round by an impressive Crystal Palace side. The Eagles were the superior outfit for the majority of the match and fully deserved their victory. Saints were uncharacteristically sloppy and couldn't quite match Palace for intensity.
Alan Pardew named an extremely attacking line-up, with Wilfried Zaha, Frazier Campbell, Marouane Chamakh all starting for the away side. Saints made just one change from the side the won at Newcastle, with Jack Cork coming in for Harrison Reed. Ronald Koeman's men were far too open at the back throughout the first half. The midfield didn't offer the back four enough protection.
Palace set the tone early on with Zaha shooting over inside the first minute. Saints did look reasonably useful going forward during the first 20 minutes or so. The home side took the lead on 9. James Ward-Prowse's corner evaded a couple of Palace defenders before Graziano Pelle hooked the ball into the back of the net at the far post.
Saints looked susceptible at the back every time Palace went forward. The visitors often went direct, but used the ball quickly and generally more purposefully than Southampton. They were level just two minutes after Pelle's opener. Zaha played in Sanogo on the left following a swift counter. The Arsenal loanee fired a low shot at Forster, with Chamakh completing a simple finish on the rebound.
Saints responded well and were back in front five minutes later. Ward-Prowse was involved again, cutting the ball down the left with the outside of his foot. Ryan Bertrand's routine byline cross was then inadvertently turned in by Scott Dann. Palace levelled up again on 21. Zaha hooked on to a long ball before squaring it to Sanogo who blasted the ball into the corner of the net.
Saints enjoyed a few decent spells of possession, but rarely in dangerous areas. The home side never really asked too many probing questions of the Palace defence. Ward-Prowse and Steven Davis both came close with speculative long range efforts. On 39 hesitation from Eljero Elia resulted in another Palace break. Saints were undone down the right before the ball was played into Chamakh in the area. The Moroccan chested down before sliding into the back of the net for 3-2.
Palace looked very comfortable going into half-time and at the start of the second half. Saints didn't offer too much going forward, but did show a bit more urgency during the last 20 minutes. Most of the home side's openings came from set pieces. Elia had the best chance, testing the keeper with a powerful effort from just outside the area. Saints were then involved in a late scramble in the Palace penalty area, which concluded with Ward-Prowse blasting well over the bar.
A weird performance, so unlike any other this season. Saints coped well without the absent players last week at Newcastle, but on this occasion it was more noticeable. With so many other big teams dropping out some will see it as a missed opportunity, but league form has to be prioritised. Saints' time in the cup will come one day, but we probably won't ever have a better chance of qualifying for the Champions League as we do this season.
Forster: 5. Couldn't hold on to anything in the first-half
Clyne: 6. Not at his best, but reasonably decent
Fonte: 6. Run down the right-flank late in the game the highlight
Gardos: 5. A few clever pieces of defending, but some glaring errors too, which prompted Koeman to take him off at half-time
Bertrand: 6. One of Saints' better attacking players during the first-half. Not troubled too much in the second half where he switched to centre-half
Cork: 5. Looked very rusty. Passing a bit off, and didn't offer the usual defensive shield
Davis: 6. Like Cork often wasteful on the ball at times. Involved in a few half-chances
Ward-Prowse: 7. Had a role in both Saints' goals and looked energetic throughout
Tadic: 5. Rarely threatened the Palace defence
Elia: 6. Partially at fault for the 3rd Palace goal. A few sharp pieces of skill, but overall a level well below his Newcastle showing
Pelle: 6. Looked pretty useful in the first-half, some clever footwork
Targett: 6. Steady 2nd half display
Long: Hadn't done too much before his unfortunate injury
Seager: 6. Another debutant. Got in a few decent touches
Saints - Pelle (9) Dann OG (17)
Crystal Palace - Chamakh (11, 39) Sanogo (21)
Attendance - 31,320 (3,255 Crystal Palace fans)
Referee - Jonathan Moss
Saints: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Gardos (Targett 46), Bertrand, Cork (Long 59) (Seager 72), S Davis, Ward-Prowse, Tadic, Elia, Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, McCarthy, Reed, Isgrove
Crystal Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Kelly, Ledley, McCarthur, Campbell (Murray 81), Chamakh (Puncheon 64), Sanogo (Mariappa 78)
Subs not used: Speroni, Hangeland, Bannan, Gayle