Sharp finishing from first Danny Ings and then Pierre-Emile Højbjerg in added time gave Mark Hughes respite after a winless August. Zaha, meanwhile, was missing after the talismanic forward suffered a groin strain in training on Friday. There is perhaps no single player more important to any Premier League club, and Palace remains winless without the forward since September 2016. Southampton deservedly won their first three points of the season as they capitalised on the surprise absence of Wilfried Zaha to turn Crystal Palace over.
The pain of losing Zaha was only compounded by a profligate performance by Christian Benteke. Expected to stand up in his strike partner’s absence, the Belgian only floundered in the spotlight. He missed three standout chances, including one free header from barely six yards out.
Southampton may have sensed uncertainty in the hosts at a quiet Selhurst Park, notably shorn of the flags that used to dominate the Holmesdale end. With only a point to their name ahead of this fixture, Mark Hughes named an unchanged side to the one that was edged out at home by Leicester and they crafted three first-half openings.
The best of them came on the half hour when Ings juggled the ball to create room on the edge of the box and hit a sweet volley that was kept out of the goal by his own strike partner, Shane Long. Wayne Hennessey also tipped two long-range efforts from Højbjerg over the bar.
Ings opened the scoring within moments of the restart. The on-loan Liverpool forward has played as well as anyone in Hughes’s side since arriving on deadline day. When Cédric Soares hit a cross from the halfway line in the 47th minute he was alive to it. The Palace centre halves Mamadou Sakho and Martin Kelly were not. After Long had run a diversion, the ball drifted past both defenders and Ings poked home under Hennessey for his second goal of the season.
Palace needed a response. McArthur curled a sweet strike on to the bar in the 55th minute. Seven minutes later and the hosts created their best chance of the match with Benteke sent clear on Alex McCarthy. It was the Belgian’s first big moment of the day and he drove his shot into the goalkeeper’s legs.
Moments later, Long hobbled off for Southampton and was replaced by Charlie Austin. Seconds after coming on, the substitute had won a penalty. The visitors had overwhelmed Palace in the left-back position and Soares’s cross flew right across the goal. Austin, standing at the back post, poked off a shot and Aaron Wan-Bissaka bent over to block it with his hand. It was a definite handball and earned the young full-back, who was just back from suspension, a yellow card. Austin went to take the kick himself but blew it, his tame effort straight down the centre of goal was saved by Hennessey’s feet.
The ball was barely under control again before Saints had another good opportunity, but Hennessey first saved a shot from Nathan Redmond, then saw winger Mohamed Elyounoussi turn the rebound on to the bar.
As the match reached its dying moments Palace threw caution to the wind and twice Benteke should have scored. First, he placed a header well over after a Luka Milivojevic corner and then, with just seconds of normal time remaining, he found himself unmarked on the edge of the six-yard area and, in receipt of a cross from Wan-Bissaka, he placed his header straight at McCarthy.
With the game running into six minutes of added time, Saints hit Palace on the counter. Substitute Matt Targett created the chance, drifting a ball from the left behind a high Palace rearguard. Højbjerg advanced on to it and made certain with his finish.
Source: The Guardian