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.
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 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.
In Other News – Arsenal make light work of Fulham as they win in the season opener
Debutants Gabriel and Willian impressed as Arsenal blew away promoted Fulham in the opening game of the Premier League season. Former Chelsea winger Willian had a hand in all three goals and Gabriel – a £23m signing from Lille – scored in his first game in English football.
Arsenal was highly impressive, while Fulham caused themselves too many problems at the back. Both sides have played and won at Wembley – twice for the Gunners – in the 48 days since the last Premier League season finished. Alexandre Lacazette scored the opener from close range after Willian’s effort was saved. learn more
Source – BBC