Wilfried Zaha snatches late winner as Palace sink Southampton
Wilfried Zaha came off the bench to score a stoppage-time winner for Crystal Palace as they snatched a 2-1 win at Southampton.
The Eagles looked to have rescued a point when Eberechi Eze scored his first goal of the season to cancel out Oriol Romeu’s early goal, but a moment of magic from Zaha saw Palace leave St Mary’s with all three points.
The result lifts Patrick Vieira’s side above Southampton and within touching distance of the top half of the table with four left to play.
Vieira had left Zaha on the bench after a bruising encounter at Leeds in the Eagles’ last outing, but he came on for the final 25 minutes to remind everyone just how indispensable he is to the club.
Romeu had missed two excellent headed chances in Southampton’s recent defeat at Burnley but scored one here from James Ward-Prowse’s inswinging corner in the ninth minute.
The Spaniard rose above Joel Ward at the far post to head in off the crossbar and give Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side the lead.
Neither Zaha nor Tyrick Mitchell were fit enough to start the game and they struggled to find openings in the early stages.
They did threaten after 25 minutes as Eze and Jeffrey Schlupp combined to create a chance for Jean-Philippe Mateta, whose near-post shot was saved by the legs of goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
With the primary objective of survival already achieved, the pressure was off both sides, making for an open game.
Conor Gallagher and Ward-Prowse may well end up competing for the same place in Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad and both were prominent.
Gallagher broke well towards the end of the first half and Ward-Prowse did just enough to deflect his dangerous cross onto the roof of the net and prevent the ball from reaching the unmarked Mateta.
Forster, soon to be out of contract at Southampton, was then needed to make a smart save as Jordan Ayew headed Eze’s corner towards the top corner.
After a slow start, it was Palace who now looked the more threatening.
Five minutes after the break, Ayew got to the byline and Forster pushed away his cross, with Schlupp seeing a point-blank shot blocked by defender Jan Bednarek.
They deservedly equalised when Ayew fed former Saints full-back Nathaniel Clyne and his deep cross was volleyed low between Forster’s legs by Eze.
It was Eze’s first goal since tearing his Achilles last May, with the former QPR player having struggled to regain his place since returning from injury in November.
Vieira introduced Zaha from the bench as Palace looked for a winner.
They had strong penalty claims waved away when Gallagher went down under Romeu’s awkward challenge.
Hasenhuttl responded by bringing on Armando Broja and Stuart Armstrong and the latter might have won it when he blazed over after Romeu’s flick had found him in the six-yard box.
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