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Jay Rodriguez scored the only goal as Southampton surpassed their 2012/13 Barclays Premier League points tally with a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace.
Chances were few and far between for much of the opening period at Selhurst Park, but it was a mistake by a former Southampton player that led to the deadlock being broken. Jason Puncheon’s weak header to a long ball out of the visitors’ defence, allowed Rodriguez to pounce to get the better of Julian Speroni and poke the ball into an empty net.
The win takes ninth-placed Southampton to 42 points, one better than last season, while Palace are now just two points clear of the relegation zone.
Tony Pulis rewarded Glenn Murray for his match-changing cameo at Swansea City last weekend by handing the striker just his second Barclays Premier League start, but it was frustrating opening 10 minutes for the hosts as they were flagged offside on three occasions. Southampton took control of the game by having the lion’s share of possession, but neither side were giving goalkeepers Speroni or Artur Boruc particular cause for concern.
Rodriguez got a sight of goal shortly before the half-hour, but Damien Delaney slid in well to ensure Speroni remained untested, before Southampton were forced into an early change when Jack Cork went down with an apparent ankle injury. Victor Wanyama was his replacement.
The match sparked into life eight minutes before the break when Puncheon conceded possession with a weak defensive header, forcing Speroni to rush out of his area to challenge Rodriguez. The England forward came out of the challenge on top and rolled the ball into an empty net, taking him level with Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney on eight away goals for the season.
Another of Southampton’s World Cup hopefuls Rickie Lambert nearly doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time, but prodded his effort against the right post from just inside the 18-yard box, before Yannick Bolasie drilled a powerful strike straight at Boruc at the other end.
Palace came from a goal down at the break to earn a point at Swansea last Sunday, and Bolasie tried to force the issue early in the second period, but was brought down by Dejan Lovren 20 yards out as he surged goalwards. Mile Jedinak blazed the resulting free-kick over.
The second 45 minutes followed much the same pattern as the first, Southampton enjoying the majority of possession, but failing to look especially dangerous. Luke Shaw, who picked up his first England cap against Denmark on Wednesday, tried his luck from 20 yards in the 73rd minute, but it was an easy save for Speroni.
Having started the half brightly, Palace never really looked like finding an equaliser, and Southampton were comfortable as they held on to the three points.
Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis: "It was difficult. We got over 20 crosses into the box but they defended very well. They are a good side and have more quality but you cant fault my players, they kept at it.
"The important thing is we will have runs where we don't get the points we want but you have to stay focused and stick together. That's what we will do."
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino: "Our mentality never changes, it's always to win. We were brave, industrious and outgoing. We were facing a side in dire need of points but we did well and were aggressive to get a result.
"Jay scored a very important goal for us. He was brave and I thought it reflected our display well. We are coming off two league defeats and it was important to end that. We just want to keep growing and developing."
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