Eberechi Eze scores twice as Crystal Palace resurgence continues at Southampton
Eberechi Eze bagged a brace as Crystal Palace continued their resurgence under Roy Hodgson with a 2-0 win which deepens Southampton’s Premier League relegation concerns.
Eze struck twice in 14 second-half minutes at St Mary’s to earn the Eagles a third consecutive success since former England boss Hodgson returned to Selhurst Park just under four weeks ago.
Bottom club Southampton enjoyed plenty of the ball but were largely toothless in attack as they slipped to a club-record 20th defeat in a 38-game top-flight campaign.
Saints midfielder Carlos Alcaraz came close to halving the deficit as he curled against the inside of the left post before the Eagles cruised to victory to take another significant step towards securing their own survival.
Ruben Selles’ hosts have picked up just two points from the last 18 available, with a drop into the Sky Bet Championship at the end of a miserable season featuring three managers beginning to look inevitable going into their final seven games.
Palace travelled to Hampshire buoyed by their recent upturn in form following the sacking of Patrick Vieira, while Southampton began the day in serious trouble and with time running out.
Saints boss Selles insisted this week his players possess the fight for a relegation scrap.
The Spaniard watched the recalled Joe Aribo blaze over the best chance of a cagey opening quarter following a well-worked corner routine, before Palace midfielder Michael Olise had an effort ruled out for a clear offside having burst through to round home goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu.
Southampton forward Theo Walcott, who assisted Aribo’s attempt, later fired into the side-netting after being slipped in by Kamaldeen Sulemana.
Frustration began to grow around the ground as Saints patiently probed for an opener against a solid away side searching for opportunities to counter.
The Eagles, unchanged from last weekend’s 5-1 thrashing of Leeds, failed to register an attempt on target in a forgettable first half.
That statistic persisted until the 54th minute when the visitors edged in front.
Jordan Ayew’s powerful cross from the left was pushed away by Bazunu, leaving Eze with a simple, side-foot volley into the unguarded net.
Palace were far more threatening in attack during the second half of last weekend’s emphatic win in West Yorkshire and that trend continued on the south coast.
Eze, who was on target at Elland Road six days ago, doubled his side’s lead in the 68th minute by turning away from Moussa Djenepo and Romeo Lavia to arrow a low strike into the bottom-left corner from distance.
Southampton were initially stunned by the quick-fire double.
The hosts almost gave their opponents something to think about when Argentinian Alcaraz was unlucky to be denied by the woodwork from the edge of the box in the 72nd minute before he volleyed over from close range moments later.
Saints defender Armel Bella-Kotchap then forced Palace keeper Sam Johnstone into a fine stop with a thumping long-range drive.
But Palace, who hit the left post through an Olise free-kick in added time, remained relatively comfortable as they held on for another precious success, which prompted boos from disgruntled home supporters.