Crystal Palace made a winning start to the 2020-21 Premier League season as a volley by Wilfried Zaha proved enough to sink Southampton.
The Ivory Coast forward, who has repeatedly been linked with a move away from Selhurst Park, was unmarked when he produced a clinical finish from Andros Townsend’s impressive cross.
Nathan Redmond wasted a great chance following a slick Southampton move, while Palace keeper Vicente Guaita produced an excellent save to keep out a volley by Che Adams.
Guaita then produced a reflex save to deny Danny Ings a last-gasp equaliser.
Saints defender Kyle Walker-Peters had a red card downgraded to a yellow in the second half after referee Jonathan Moss reviewed his foul on Tyrick Mitchell on the pitch-side monitor.
Moss had already shown the former Tottenham player a red card before leaving the pitch to review the challenge on the screen.
Officials have been told to use pitch-side monitors more often this season for subjective decisions – such as goals, red cards and penalties – rather than rely on the video assistant referee.
Zaha shows his worth to Palace
As recently as July, Palace boss Roy Hodgson stated Zaha was “set on leaving” the club where he has spent most of his playing career.
He was linked with moves to both Everton and Arsenal in the summer of 2019, and Hodgson claimed the speculation had affected the player as Palace limped over the finishing line following seven defeats in the last eight games.
Against Southampton, Zaha, who has a contract until 2022-23, was lively and fully committed, and produced a fine finish following an excellent move involving Townsend.
After Saints carelessly lost possession in midfield, the former Spurs winger broke down the right before picking out his team-mate to fire past Alex McCarthy.
Goals were hard to come by for Palace last season.
Their paltry return of 31 in 38 top-flight games prompted them to draft in Michy Batshuayi on a second loan from Chelsea, while they also invested £19.5m in 22-year-old QPR forward Eberechi Eze.
Both newcomers started on the bench before Eze came on in the closing stages as Palace marked Hodgson’s third anniversary in charge with a gritty clean-sheet win.
The hosts were missing several key defenders including Mamadou Sakho, Patrick van Aanholt and Gary Cahill through injury but Scott Dann and Cheikhou Kouyate were strong at the back.
Zaha had the ball in the back of the net a second time towards the end but it was ruled out for offside.
Frustrating start for Saints
Having finished last season strongly, this was a frustrating start to Southampton’s ninth successive season in the Premier League.
Ings, who scored 22 league goals last season, thought he had equalised in the dying moments with a header only for Guaita to fling himself across his line to keep it out.
Only champions Liverpool and runners-up Manchester City secured more away points than Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side as they secured 11th spot in the table.
But they were unable to punish Palace’s depleted defence despite five chances on target.
Redmond shot straight at Guaita when he should have done better while the Spanish keeper was at his best to deny Adams, before James Ward-Prowse sent a free-kick over the bar.
It could have been worse for the visitors.
There appeared no malicious intent when Walker-Peters make contact with Mitchell but Moss reached for his pocket, before downgrading his decision.
“It was excellent from the referee,” said former England keeper Rob Green, who was at Selhurst Park for BBC Radio 5 Live. “The referee made the wrong decision and he went over, had a look and no one batted an eyelid when he changed it.”
Man of the match – Vicente Guaita (Crystal Palace)
Zaha’s half century – the stats
- Wilfried Zaha netted the 50th league goal in his career (excluding play-offs), with 37 of those coming in the Premier League and 13 in the Championship.
- Zaha has been directly involved in 60 Premier League goals for Palace (37 goals, 23 assists) – 28 more than any other player for the club in the competition.
- Southampton have won just one of their past 14 Premier League season openers (D7 L6), failing to win any of the last seven (D4 L3).
- Andros Townsend has provided more Premier League assists versus Southampton than he has against any other side in the competition (4).
- This is the first time the home side has won a Premier League fixture between Crystal Palace and Southampton in seven meetings (D2 L4) since Saints registered a 3-1 victory in April 2017.
Both teams are in Carabao Cup second-round action against Championship opposition in midweek with Palace away at Bournemouth on Tuesday (19:45 BST), while Southampton host Brentford on Wednesday (19:45).
- 22McCarthyBooked at 58minsSubstituted forMilivojevicat 74′minutes
- 15SchluppBooked at 41minsSubstituted forEzeat 81′minutes
- 9J Ayew
- 2Walker-PetersBooked at 51mins
- 35BednarekSubstituted forVestergaardat 45′minutes
- 20SmallboneSubstituted forDjenepoat 77′minutes
- 10AdamsSubstituted forLongat 85′minutes
Match ends, Crystal Palace 1, Southampton 0.
Second Half ends, Crystal Palace 1, Southampton 0.
Corner, Southampton. Conceded by Joel Ward.
Attempt saved. Danny Ings (Southampton) header from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Kyle Walker-Peters with a cross.
Attempt missed. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) right footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by James McArthur following a fast break.
Corner, Crystal Palace. Conceded by Jack Stephens.
Corner, Crystal Palace. Conceded by Jannik Vestergaard.
Hand ball by Jannik Vestergaard (Southampton).
Attempt missed. James Ward-Prowse (Southampton) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left from a direct free kick.
James Ward-Prowse (Southampton) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace).
Substitution, Southampton. Shane Long replaces Che Adams.
Moussa Djenepo (Southampton) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Joel Ward (Crystal Palace).
Foul by Che Adams (Southampton).
Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
VAR Decision: No Goal Crystal Palace 1-0 Southampton.
Offside, Crystal Palace. James McArthur tries a through ball, but Wilfried Zaha is caught offside.
Substitution, Crystal Palace. Eberechi Eze replaces Jeffrey Schlupp.
Attempt missed. James McArthur (Crystal Palace) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Luka Milivojevic with a cross following a corner.