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Friday 19 January 2018

Shane ends long drought but Palace claim points

Southampton 1 Crystal Palace 2

Shane Long celebrates his goal against Palace with team-mate Dusan Tadic. Photo: Reuters
Shane Long celebrates his goal against Palace with team-mate Dusan Tadic. Photo: Reuters

Crystal Palace denied Shane Long the glory of his first goal in 325 days when they again fought back from a goal down to secure three vital points in a 2-1 victory at Southampton.

The Irish striker's struggles in front of goal have characterised those of his team since the final weeks of the reign of former head coach Claude Puel.

Under Mauricio Pellegrino they have become contenders for relegation, and after falling to 16th place as Palace rose to 14th with finishes from James McArthur and Luka Milivojevic, their supporters chanted for the manager's sacking. If Pellegrino's team were short on confidence, they recognised from kick-off the need to build on the the fact Palace were playing their third match in six days and made a promising start.

They had already consistently probed when Oriol Romeu played a square ball across midfield to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who in space from 25 yards unleashed a powerful strike the diving Wayne Hennessey did well to tip over.

Palace were already showing signs of fatigue - perhaps owing largely to the energy used holding Premier League leaders Manchester City to a 0-0 draw little over 48 hours earlier - and in the 17th minute Southampton scored.

After Ryan Bertrand's over-hit cross from the left was collected on the opposite wing by Jeremy Pied, the Frenchman played a low ball back into the area that was almost ignored by the visitors' static defence. Gifted both time and space, Long finally scored the goal that had eluded him for so long when on the turn he powerfully shot first time beyond Hennessey and inside the far right post.

It took until the 30th minute for Palace to have a sight on goal, when Andros Townsend's curling effort was tipped wide by their former goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, and thereafter their lethargy gradually improved.

Roy Hodgson responded by at half-time replacing Yohan Cabaye with Patrick van Aanholt. Bakary Sako also soon came on for Jeffrey Schlupp, but when Zaha found Christian Benteke inside the area, the striker's goal-bound shot was impressively tipped away by McCarthy.

The equalising goal they were beginning to threaten then almost immediately followed. It was in the 68th minute, after Van Aanholt's delivery had already been cleared, when Townsend chipped into the area, Benteke nodded into McArthur's path, and the midfielder powerfully finished high into the roof of the net.

Palace have recently secured draws from losing positions and when Townsend squared to Milivojevic in the 80th minute another did not look imminent, but the Serbian struck first time and curled into the bottom left corner from 25 yards, securing another win and furthering Southampton's misery.

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