Crystal Palace Away FA Cup 3rd round Won 1 – 2
For the Crystal Palace encounter, any changes made by either side’s coach could have been put down to a much needed reshuffle rather than the usual F.A. Cup ‘buggins turn’ approach, given the current form of each. As it was, the only notable absentee for the home team was Eze while Saints started without Walker-Peters, Lavia, Bella-Kotchap and Stuart Armstrong, all of whom have various injury problems, while Aribo and Adam Armstrong came in for Elyounoussi and Mara. A bright enough start was set back on 14 minutes when Salisu’s ball forward proved too easy, Édouard was clearly too good for Ćaleta-Car and Bazunu didn’t look likely to stop a shot that was nevertheless not hit sweetly. Suddenly Palace found themselves on top – not entirely a bad thing as we looked most vulnerable when in possession, but it could still have gone badly wrong when Ayew could only guide Olise’s cross onto the bar. Time for more obscene chants featuring the manager, or rather his style of play, but then Ward inexplicably decided he couldn’t match Aribo for pace and received a caution while conceding a free kick. Ward-Prowse put the ball in the area he wanted without anyone getting a touch, but crucially, this was at the end of some squally rain on a generally wet and windy lunchtime in SE 25, and when the ball bounced upwards, it found its way into Guaita’s top corner unaided. Saints just about avoided going behind again before the break, which was psychologically important, and they changed things a bit for the second period: Edozie switched wings (at least until Mara came on), with the hapless Ward following him across, while Aribo found himself further back. Whatever the plan, Southampton now seemed an organised unit for the first time since seems-like-forever, and had Edozie been more composed on his flank and Perraud more careful with his crosses on the other, they may have gone ahead – an aggressive, front foot approach was more akin to what we’d been led to expect from Jones-ball. On 66 minutes Adam Armstrong forced a fine save from Guaita, but it wasn’t to be the keeper’s afternoon as two minutes later, he dwelt too long on the ball and was robbed by AA who rolled it into an empty net. Key to seeing the game out was keeping Zaha quiet, but he’d left his shooting boots behind and a fall under Lyanco’s challenge didn’t detain VAR too long. Possibly later than ideal, Walker-Peters came on to help Lyanco out against Zaha, then further defensive moves recalled the situation at Fulham where the team went backwards only to concede late on. Palace, though, are not as good as their fellow Londoners and indeed Saints were able to remain camped around the opposition’s corner flag for much of added time to put themselves into round four.
Three LSSC Man of the Match candidates to choose from:
3. Ainsley Maitland-Niles. In midfield for comfortably his best game for us.
8. James Ward-Prowse. OK, there were a lot of misplaced passed and the goal wasn’t exactly what he’d planned, but a goal is a goal (and was still celebrated with that trademark golf swing).
9. Adam Armstrong. Again a goal not entirely of his own making, but he did cause it to happen and often looked dangerous down the middle.