(Reuters) – Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha scored his 50th league goal for the club as they beat Southampton 1-0 on Saturday to secure a home victory on the opening day of a Premier League campaign for the first time.
The hosts went ahead against the run of play as Zaha, who had managed only one goal in his previous 21 games, met Andros Townsend’s pin-point cross from the right with a side-footed volley past goalkeeper Alex McCarthy in the 13th minute.
“We finished last season on the wrong foot. We’ve been working in pre-season to make sure we start in a different manner. The performance and points were very important going forward,” Palace captain Scott Dann told the BBC.
Zaha, so often Palace’s talisman during previous seasons but coming off a disappointing 2019-20 campaign in which he netted only four league goals, looked dangerous throughout the first half as Southampton left far too many gaps at the back.
Ralph Hasenhuettl’s side responded by increasing their intensity in attack and had two quick chances immediately after the restart, but both Nathan Redmond and Che Adams were unlucky not to get the ball past the impressive Vicente Guaita in goal.
Kyle Walker-Peters, who joined Southampton from Tottenham Hotspur in the close season, was then shown a straight red for a high challenge before referee Jon Moss changed it to a yellow following the intervention of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
Zaha thought he had doubled Palace’s tally late into the contest with a neat run and finish, only for the VAR to rule out his effort as he was offside in the build-up.
Guaita, who earlier denied Adams with a superb save, came to Palace’s rescue again moments after Zaha squandered another late chance, as he blocked Danny Ings’ header in added time.
“In the end we weren’t quick enough and did not stretch our opponents enough,” Hasenhuettl said.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)