- Benteke gives visitors a fast lead
- Forster saves Milivojevic’s penalty
- Cute Finish of Adams Double Sandwich from Ings
Free from the gruesome prospect of the Championship, it might have been understandable, if not forgivable, if Southampton and Crystal Palace had gone through the moves last night. Instead, with famine beckoning them, they offered a feast which, from the time Christian Benteke moved Palace to when Danny Ings signed the Southampton deal, has never lacked in intensity. .
So well placed after beating Liverpool in the opener of 2021, Southampton’s season came to a halt at the end of February. Relegation was never a big deal, but they started fourth from the bottom and the rubble of the calendar year may have to be picked up, at the very least, by a significantly different group of players. Manager Ralph Hassenhutl saw no need for tinkering and the defenestration of youngster Nathan Tella by the return of Danny Ings was the only change from Saturday’s shallow loss at Anfield.
Crystal Palace promised less than Southampton but delivered more. Not for them, the brand statement wins after an early triumph at Old Trafford. Instead, there was, once again, cautious consolidation, mostly against those who were at their level. Like a not-so-crazy scientist, their manager Roy Hodgson also rejected the temptation to experiment after Saturday’s win at Sheffield.
Two minutes later, all of Hassenhuttl’s plans were threatened and Palace was ahead. Luka Milivojevic was floating on a free kick from the left. Scott Dann brought him back to the danger zone, where Christian Benteke was hiding, apparently overwhelmed by local defenders.
Instead, Benteke hung the ball over his head, faced a handful of dismal challenges from defenders who could also have played in summer flip flops and slammed an unstoppable finish in front of Fraser Forster. The Belgium international looked skyward and thanked for scoring in successive Premier League games for the first time since April 2017.