REPORT: Southampton 4-1 Crystal Palace

By SFC Media time Sun 15 May Club

Southampton assured themselves of Europa League football next season, as they beat Crystal Palace 4-1 at St Mary’s.

Saints’ victory saw them leapfrog West Ham United, who lost 2-1 at Stoke City, to guarantee them a top-six finish in the Barclays Premier League.

Ronald Koeman’s men could still finish fifth, with Manchester United still to play AFC Bournemouth after their clash at Old Trafford was abandoned on Sunday afternoon.

Goals from Sadio Mané, who has now scored eight in eight games, substitute Graziano Pellè, Ryan Bertrand and Steven Davis handed Saints all three points against Palace, with Jason Puncheon’s goal proving little consolation for Alan Pardew’s men.

Koeman made just one change from the win at Tottenham Hotspur, as Oriol Romeu replaced the injured Jordy Clasie in the centre of midfield alongside Victor Wanyama.

Knowing a victory could assure them of European football next season, Saints set about getting on the front foot early, but after Palace had stifled the hosts for 17 minutes, they created the first real opening of the game.

Dwight Gayle’s first-time strike, after Saints had failed to clear a cross from the left properly, was well struck, but Fraser Forster – fresh from signing a new five-year contract on Friday – made a superb save.

That seemed to spark Saints into life, and it was Dušan Tadić who offered up the best of the attacking threat for Koeman’s men, as he played Mané through on goal, but the Senegalese international prodded the ball wide of the target.

With Tadić’s movement inside freeing up space for Ryan Bertrand, the left-back was enjoying plenty of opportunity to get forward, and it was from his cross that Shane Long almost opened the scoring.

Long did superbly well to meet the England international’s cross, but the in-form striker could only head narrowly wide of Julian Speroni’s goal.

Saints, who were very much in the ascendency, had their first shot on target with 30 minutes gone, as Steven Davis teed up Romeu but the midfielder’s effort was comfortably held by Speroni.

The breakthrough finally arrived three minutes before half time. Speroni made a mess of Tadić’s cross, and with the goalkeeper off his line, Mané superbly looped the ball over the stranded stopper and into the empty net.

Saints’ hard work in getting themselves ahead was almost undone immediately, as Jason Puncheon played in Gayle, but the striker was denied by another superb stop from Forster.

The Saints goalkeeper had to be at his best 15 minutes into the second half, as Palace threatened to equalise. Puncheon’s cross came through to substitute Sullay KaiKai, but Forster made a flying stop to keep the hosts ahead.

Palace were much improved, but it was Saints who extended their lead just moments later. Cuco Martina’s cross found Pellè, who headed home expertly for his 14th goal of the season in all competitions.

Pellè ran to Kelvin Davis – who celebrates ten years of service to the club with his testimonial on Sunday – but those celebrations were short-lived, as Palace pulled one back.

A corner broke kindly for former Saints man Puncheon, and after beating Long to the ball, he fired the ball beyond Forster and into the top corner of the net.

Nerves were starting to creep in at St Mary’s, but when Mané was fouled in the box as he looked to latch on to Pellè’s pass, Saints had the perfect opportunity to restore their two-goal lead.

It was left to Bertrand to take, and the left-back stepped up confidently to beat Speroni and net his first goal of the season.

Saints, and Mané in particular, were looking dangerous. The winger curled just wide from 20 yards, before firing over moments later after doing superbly well to create a shooting opportunity.

The fourth goal arrived four minutes from time, as Pellè chested Martina's cross into the path of Davis, who confidently finished for his third goal in two games.

St Mary's was rocking, and as news of Stoke City's winner against West Ham filtered through, Koeman's men knew they were heading back into Europe.

Southampton: Fraser Forster, Cuco Martina, José Fonte (c), Virgil van Dijk, Ryan Bertrand, Oriol Romeu (Graziano Pellè 46), Victor Wanyama, Dušan Tadić (James Ward-Prowse 71), Steven Davis, Sadio Mané, Shane Long (Charlie Austin 83).

Unused substitutes: Maarten Stekelenburg (GK), Cédric, Maya Yoshida, Harrison Reed.

Goals: Mané (43), Pellè (61), Bertrand (pen 75), Davis (87)

Booked: Pellè (72)

Crystal Palace: Julián Speroni, Joel Ward (Martin Kelly 81), Adrian Mariappa, Damien Delaney, Pape Souaré, Jason Puncheon, James McArthur (Lee Chung-Yong 78), Mile Jedinak, Jordon Mutch (Sullay KaiKai 46), Emmanuel Adebayor, Dwight Gayle.

Unused substitutes: Alex McCarthy (GK), Scott Dann, Fraizer Campbell, Jake Gray.

Goal: Puncheon (63)

Booked: Ward (54), McArthur (58)

Referee: Michael Oliver

Attendance: 31,313

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