Southampton 3-1 Crystal Palace: Ings bags brace on Saints return

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Southampton Crystal Palace F365

Danny Ings scored twice – including his 100th goal in club football – as Southampton picked up only a fourth Premier League win of 2021 by coming from behind to beat Crystal Palace 3-1.

Saints top scorer Ings stylishly marked his return from a two-game injury absence by registering either side of a goal from strike partner Che Adams.

Christian Benteke had put Palace ahead inside just two minutes, while Eagles captain Luka Milivojevic squandered a first-half penalty to restore the visitors’ advantage.

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Ings’ instinctive first brought up a century of strikes across spells with Bournemouth, Burnley, Liverpool and Saints and helped give a timely reminder to England boss Gareth Southgate ahead of this summer’s European Championship.

The rare victory for Southampton this calendar year ended a five-game winless run in all competitions to move them to 14th in the table, a point behind their opponents.

Palace had been hoping to record a first league double over Saints since the 1990-91 campaign and, in addition to Milivojevic’s wasted spot-kick, Benteke blew a golden second-half chance to make it 2-2.

Southampton began the game safe from danger following Fulham’s relegation on Monday evening and were further boosted by the availability of Ings following a hamstring problem.

Ralph Hasehuttl’s men were seeking to improve a series of alarming statistics from a wretched 2021 to date, including the fewest Premier League points accrued and most goals conceded.

Their quest got off to the worst possible start.

After Milivojevic’s searching free-kick into the Saints 18-yard box was helped on by Scott Dann, Benteke eventually found space to lash home through the legs of home goalkeeper Fraser Forster with less than two minutes on the clock.

The early opener came after Belgium international Benteke – who also opened the scoring early in the Eagles’ weekend win at bottom club Sheffield United – flashed wide after just 44 seconds and ensured Saints’ run without a home clean sheet stretched to eight games.

Southampton were winless in their past eight matches without Ings and the striker swiftly underlined his importance to the south coast club by dragging them level with his landmark goal.

Nathan Redmond’s low cross from the left looked to be posing little threat to the visitors’ backline but Ings killed the ball with his first touch and coolly twisted to find the bottom right corner from level with the penalty spot.Southampton Crystal Palace F365

The 20th-minute equaliser kicked Saints into life and Redmond and Adams each threatened with low efforts across goal, while Jack Stephens later saw a goal-bound effort deflected behind.

Jan Bednarek wanted a penalty following a tussle with Cheikhou Kouyate at the subsequent corner before referee Andy Madley soon pointed to the spot at the other end.

Palace talisman Wilfried Zaha, who had struggled to impact the game, was clumsily upended by Redmond in Saints’ area but Milivojevic’s 40th-minute spot-kick brought a fine save from Forster, who dived to his left to push the ball away.

The miss became more costly only three minutes into the second period.

After James Ward-Prowse – who was narrowly off target with a long-range free-kick shortly before the half-time whistle – cut a right-wing corner back to the edge of the box, Stuart Armstrong scuffed the ball towards the far post and the sliding Adams was on hand to divert the ball home from a tight angle.

The Eagles failed to capitalise on another excellent chance just after the hour mark.

A lapse in concentration from Stephens allowed Benteke a free run at goal but the Saints defender just about atoned for his error by recovering to block the ball behind.

Southampton were dropping deeper and deeper and coming under incessant pressure.

Yet they claimed welcome breathing space with 15 minutes to play as the classy Ings was sent clear by fellow forward Adams and found the bottom right corner for a second time by poking the ball beyond Palace keeper Vicente Guaita.

A poor night for Roy Hodgson’s visitors could have become worse in stoppage time but Zaha escaped with a booking following a frustrated push towards the head of Stephens.