REPORT: Crystal Palace 1-3 Southampton
Southampton capped their 600th Premier League game with an impressive 3-1 win against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Boxing Day to move back into the Champions League places.
The club had provided the Saints fans who travelled to the game with free Santa hats, and the Saints players were equally as generous, providing plenty of festive cheer with a confident display against Neil Warnock’s side.
Having won all eight league games in which they had scored first this season, Saints got off to the perfect start, as Sadio Mané scored his second goal of the season inside the opening 20 minutes to give Ronald Koeman’s side the lead.
Ryan Bertrand made it 2-0 with a confident finish from Mané’s cross early in the second half before Toby Alderweireld made it 3-0 shortly after for his first Southampton goal.
Saints were denied an ninth league clean sheet of the season as Scott Dann pulled one back with a good header, but Saints held on to record their first win away from home since Hull City.
Koeman made three changes for the game at Selhurst Park, one of which was enforced, as Florin Gardos came in for his first Premier League start in place of the suspended José Fonte.
In midfield, Morgan Schneiderlin replaced Harrison Reed, while Graziano Pellè was supported in attack by Mané rather than Shane Long as Koeman stuck to the 3-5-2 formation that served Saints so well against Everton.
Boosted by that 3-0 win against the Toffees that ended a run of five defeats in a row, Saints started brightly and almost took the lead inside five minutes. Alderweireld looked to loop a loose ball back into the box, but almost caught out Julian Speroni in the Palace goal, only to see the Argentine goalkeeper tip the ball onto the crossbar.
The hosts were also looking threatening going forward, and Jason Puncheon had a great chance from the edge of the box five minutes later. The ball broke kindly for the former Saints man, but he could only fire straight at Fraser Forster who held well.
It was Saints who found an early breakthrough, however, as Mané grabbed his first away goal for the club. A clever ball through the defence from James Ward-Prowse found the Senegalese international, and he took it round Speroni before applying the finish.
Palace responded well to that setback, with Forster having to be at his best on a number of occasions to deal with crosses into the box, before Saints had a great chance to double their lead on the counter.
Pellè let Mané’s pass roll past him cleverly to Ward-Prowse, but the midfielder curled his effort from the edge of the box high over the crossbar.
Saints had weathered somewhat of a Crystal Palace storm as the rain fell heavily at Selhurst Park in the first half, but within a few minutes of the restart, they had doubled their advantage.
Mané, thriving in the central role handed to him by Koeman, did well to beat his man and cross for Bertrand, who applied an emphatic finish to grab his second goal in a Southampton shirt.
After Mané and Bertrand had got their second goals for the club, Alderweireld got his first in the 54th minute, to give Saints a three-nil advantage. The Belgian defender climbed highest to powerfully head home Ward-Prowse’s corner.
Dann headed home Mile Jedinak's free-kick to provide the home supporters with some festive cheer, but it was Saints who picked up the three points to move back into the Champions League spots in the Premier League.
Crystal Palace: Julian Speroni, Adrian Marriappa, Damien Delaney, Scott Dann, Joel Ward, Mile Jedinak (c), James McArthur, Joe Ledley (Wilfried Zaha 67), Yannick Bolasie (Martin Kelly 71), Jason Puncheon, Fraizer Campbell (Dwight Gayle 49).
Unused substitutes: Wayne Hennessey, Brede Hangeland, Barry Bannan, Jerome Thomas.
Goals: Dann (87)
Booked: Delaney (78)
Southampton: Fraser Forster, Nathaniel Clyne (Jason McCarthy 88), Maya Yoshida, Florin Gardos, Toby Alderweireld, Ryan Bertrand, Steven Davis (Victor Wanyama 56), James Ward-Prowse, Morgan Schneiderlin, Sadio Mané, Graziano Pellè (Shane Long 72).
Unused Substitutes: Kelvin Davis (GK), Matt Targett, Harrison Reed, Dušan Tadić.
Goals: Mané (18), Bertrand (48), Alderweireld (54)