Crystal Palace 1-0 Southampton
- Goal: Wilfried Zaha (£7.0m)
- Assist: Andros Townsend (£6.0m)
- Bonus: Vicente Guaita (£5.0m) x3, Townsend x2, Scott Dann (£4.5m) x1
Wilfried Zaha (£7.0m) bagged the winning goal, but none of the bonus points, as Crystal Palace returned to their roots to grind out a win over Southampton.
The Eagles managed just one win in nine as they lost their way post-lockdown; a fact that must have irked boss Roy Hodgson. After years spent perfecting his kindly owl image, he was clearly busy this summer rebooting his touchline persona.
And for much of the match, his new scowling sunburnt tourist look suited the quality, or lack thereof, on the pitch as play was broken, passes went astray and chances were scarce.
An early burst of Southampton attacking intent culminated in a Jack Stephens (£5.0m) header forcing a routine save from Vicente Guaita (£5.0m) – the first of five stops from the Palace keeper that earned him the maximum bonus award for his 1.8% Fantasy Premier League (FPL) ownership.
At 24.4%, his opposite number, Alex McCarthy (£4.5m), came into the match as FPL’s most popular stopper, but hopes of a clean sheet were dashed after just 13 minutes when Zaha volleyed sweetly home from Andros Townsend‘s (£6.0m) pin-point cross.
The problem for managers who have a keeper playing against Palace is that if they don’t get the shut-out, then save points are unlikely to soften the blow. Hodgson’s side managed just 118 shots on target last year – only Sheffield United (110) had fewer – and they seemed content to live on attacking scraps once they were ahead yesterday.
By the time the game was up and the three points tucked away in Hodgson’s back pocket, his team had worked McCarthy just twice.
The story was markedly different at the other end.
A dour first half clearly led to some pointed dressing room comments from Southampton coach Ralph Hasenhuttl because his players came out swinging after the restart.
Che Adams (£6.0m) set up Nathan Redmond (£6.5m), whose weak shot from inside the area went straight at Guaita. The 13%-owned Kyle Walker-Peters (£4.5m) then put in a low ball that eluded everyone as Southampton’s high tempo start to the second half threatened to pay immediate dividends.
That tempo, ultimately, proved to be unsustainable – perhaps a sign of early-season fatigue – but not before Adams forced a truly brilliant save from Guaita, who reacted instinctively to beat out the striker’s well-hit volley.
It was the closest Adams got to a goal from a generally underwhelming performance. Some 4.8% of FPL managers had hoped he would offer the same sort of attacking threat as his Southampton strike partner Danny Ings (£8.5m) for considerably less money.
Neither, as it turned out, could find a way past Guaita, with the (then) 25.7%-owned Ings denied three times, most notably in stoppage time when his header, from a Walker-Peters cross, was well saved by the Palace keeper.
That capped an eventful day for the Southampton right-back, who had earlier been dismissed by referee John Moss for a high tackle, only for VAR to suggest the official might want to review his decision on the pitch-side monitor. That he did, red became yellow – rightly – and Walker-Peters’ ownership had to be grateful for one point from a match that could have seen him walk off with a negative score.
Hasenhuttl’s side still have a solid early-season schedule to come – one of the reasons Ings is so popular – but the knee-jerkers are already busy and the striker is currently the second-most sold player heading into Gameweek 2.
The opposite is not entirely true for Zaha, however.
The midfielder, who played the match out of position as a second striker, should have walked away with more than an eight-point haul from the match.
Twice he was sent clean through on the counter as Southampton chased the game. He scored from one of the breaks, only to be denied by a marginal, if correct, offside call, and could only find the side netting from the other.
That profligacy hurt his bonus point standing and a tough immediate schedule – Manchester United and Chelsea away over the next three Gameweeks – is not helping his popularity in the transfer market either.
That could all change from Gameweek 5 onwards, when Palace’s fixtures improve markedly. But only if he’s at the club at all.
Hodgson remained unconvinced post-match.
Let’s see what transpires. For me, hopefully nothing. The fact is that every transfer window I’ve been involved in, Wilf has made noises that he would like to play for a club that plays in the Champions League.
But for anything to happen, a club has got to come along and pay the market price. We’re expecting him to accept the situation for what it is and keep playing his best football.
A lot of Palace’s best football was reserved for their defence who, despite numerous injury concerns, kept Southampton at arms length for much of the encounter.
Bargain basement left-back Tyrick Mitchell (£4.0m and 13.7%) looked solid, although he offered little in an attacking sense, while veteran defender Scott Dann (£4.5m) helped makeshift centre-half Cheikou Kouyate (£5.0m) look the part while the likes of Mamadou Sakho (£4.5m) edge closer to a return.
Patience will no doubt inform Hodgson’s game. That is a luxury Hasenhuttl knows he can ill afford.
We had a difficult pre-season with players not with us and we couldn’t work for two weeks on what we wanted to do. You can see it will be a tough season and we must step up immediately.
Based on yesterday’s evidence, that step up will have to be a fairly big one – the Saints entertain Tottenham next.
Crystal Palace XI (4-4-2): Guaita; Mitchell, Dann, Kouyaté, J Ward; Schlupp (Eze 81′), McCarthy (Milivojevic 74′), McArthur, Townsend; Zaha, Ayew.
Southampton XI (4-4-2): McCarthy; Bertrand, Bednarek (Vestergaard 45′), J Stephens, Walker-Peters; Smallbone (Djenepo 77′), Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Redmond; Adams (Long 85′), Ings.
FPL Lessons Learned from Gameweek 1
- Fulham 0-3 Arsenal
- Crystal Palace 1-0 Southampton
- Liverpool 4-3 Leeds United
- West Ham United 0-1 Newcastle United
- West Bromwich Albion 0-3 Leicester City
- Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Everton
- Sheffield United 0-2 Wolves
- Brighton and Hove Albion 1-3 Chelsea