SOUTHAMPTON 1 CRYSTAL PALACE 0
CRYSTAL Palace boss Alan Pardew insisted his side deserved greater protection from Southampton’s over-physical defenders as he suffered his first away defeat since taking the Selhurst Park reins in January.
Senegal forward Sadio Mane proved the match-winner in the 83rd minute, chipping over Julian Speroni after the Eagles keeper failed to hold a James Ward-Prowse effort – Southampton’s first goal at St Mary’s Stadium for six hours and 27 minutes.
Palace had looked the most likely to break the deadlock as Wilfried Zaha struck a post in the second half, but remain 12th in the Premier League table, level with West Brom on 30 points.
“We had little protection from the referee [Martin Atkinson] because the centre halves were coming through our strikers, which they do here,” said Pardew.
“Our keeper Julian Speroni is big enough to hold up his hand but we should have stopped it before it got anywhere near there. Jose Fonte is over aggressive on Yannick Bolasie and I think we should be given that.”
Victory was Southampton’s first in four matches and moved the Saints above Liverpool, who host Burnley tonight, and one point behind fourth-placed Manchester United and a much-coveted Champions League spot.
Palace failed to repeat their FA Cup fourth-round heroics when they posted a 3-2 victory on the south coast in January, although former Saints boss Pardew insisted his Palace side warranted more from the clash.
“The performance level was high,” added Pardew. “We are disappointed we haven’t come away with a point, because we think we deserved it.
“In the first half Southampton were by far the better side in a game they had to win. Second half we were the better team and had two great chances. We also should have had a penalty and it is so disappointing we have let in a soft goal.”