Football Features

Crystal Palace earn streak-breaking win vs Southampton, thanks to Hodgson-ball and a special Zaha goal

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 17:35, 12 September 2020

Crystal Palace opened their Premier League account with a narrow 1-0 win over Southampton at Selhurst Park on Saturday afternoon.

Roy Hodgson’s men were once again indebted to Wilfried Zaha, arguably their most valuable player, whose future at his boyhood club has been up in the air over the summer.

The 27-year-old Ivorian winger broke the deadlock inside the opening 15 minutes, subsequently registering his 50th league goal for the Eagles and, despite Southampton finishing with six efforts on goal and forcing Vicente Guaita to produce a spectacular save to deny Danny Ings in stoppage time, all three points would remain in south London which could prove to be valuable in the long run.

Feast or famine?

Palace seriously struggled in front of goal in the Premier League last season, scoring just 31, as they finished nine points above the relegation zone. Only relegated Norwich City (26) scored fewer than the Eagles, a stat that certainly would have given Hodgson a cause for concern. Jordan Ayew finished as their top scorer with nine goals, five ahead of talismanic figure Zaha behind on four goals, who took until matchday 13 against Liverpool to open his account. So, Zaha getting off the mark this quickly should bring some optimism for a more fruitful year in red-and-blue.

The last time Zaha registered on the opening weekend, against Fulham in 2017, he’d go on to complete his only 10-goal season in England’s top division. But Zaha will be mindful, as the other occasion in which he scored on the opening day came against Norwich in 2015, and the Ivorian ended that season with just one more goal. It proved to be his least productive campaign in terms of minutes-to-goal ratio (one goal every 1246 minutes) with last season being his second worst (one goal every 820 minutes) since returning home from Manchester United in 2014.

Hodgson-Ball

Southampton knew exactly what to expect heading into this game. Palace and expansive football don’t exactly go hand-in-hand. And they were true to form, only completing 120 passes across 90 minutes, the fewest mustered in a Premier League win since December 2018, when Hodgson’s men inflicted a surprise defeat on Manchester City (119 passes). This preferred style is undoubtedly a risk, and places unnecessary pressure on their defence which stood up to Southampton’s onslaught, but could easily come unstuck at Old Trafford next weekend.

The streak is over

For now, the Palace faithful will not be complaining, this is a results business and they head into matchday 2 with a 100% record, a feeling they’ve never experienced in the Premier League era after starting at home. In their previous six opening day matches at Selhurst Park (not including 2020/21), Palace lost four, while drawing the remaining two fixtures.

But there will be room for Palace to improve, and Jeffrey Schlupp in particular. In his 81 minutes on the pitch, before being replaced by exciting youngster Eberechi Eze, the former Premier League champion completed just one pass from nine attempts, with only 85th-minute substitute Shane Long completing fewer.

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