Southampton 4-1 Crystal Palace: Saints secure Europa League spot after convincing win
By James Kilpatrick
Last Updated: 16/05/16 7:29am
Southampton have claimed a spot in the Europa League after defeating FA Cup finalists Crystal Palace 4-1.
The home side took the lead through Sadio Mane in the 43rd minute before substitute Graziano Pelle added a second less than 20 minutes later.
Jason Puncheon found a consolation goal three minutes later, but a Ryan Bertrand penalty and an 87th-minute goal from Steven Davis lifted Ronald Koeman's side into the Europa League.
After West Ham lost 2-1 away to Stoke, Southampton will finish the season in either fifth or sixth place, depending on what happens when the abandoned Manchester United match against Bournemouth is played, meaning European football is guaranteed for next season.
Crystal Palace will finish the campaign in 15th, unless Bournemouth get a point from that rearranged game.
Mane recovered from illness to start the game, while Palace made five changes to the team which beat Stoke City 2-1 last weekend ahead of their FA Cup final against Manchester United on Saturday.
The first real opening of the game landed at Dwight Gayle's feet in the 17th minute. He rifled a shot at England international Fraser Forster but he was able to palm the attempt away.
Shane Long headed over the bar in the 25th minute, Oriol Romeu drilled a shot straight into the arms of Julian Speroni and a Virgil van Dijk free-kick skimmed off the top of the bar before, in the 42nd minute, the Saints finally found the breakthrough goal.
A cross from the left by Dusan Tadic was not properly cleared by Palace's defence and with the ball flying high up in the air, Speroni, who was making his 388th appearance to equal the goalkeeper club record set by John Jackson, flapped at the attempt.
The ball eventually came out to Mane who was able to chip the goalkeeper and score the game's first goal.
Just a minute later, Crystal Palace had their best chance of the first half as Gayle had a chance to score from just a few yards out but he hit his effort straight at Forster.
In the second half, the game increased greatly in tempo with attacking changes made by both managers with Pelle and Sullay Kaikai coming on. For Kaikai, who has spent most of the season on loan at Shrewsbury, it was his Premier League debut.
And the 20-year-old Palace winger came close to finding an equaliser as his scuffed shot was well palmed away by Forster in the 60th minute.
A minute later, Southampton doubled their lead when Pelle scored a characteristic header after a cross from Cuco Martina towards the far post. Speroni attempted to palm the ball away, but the power was too much as the Italy international then went off to celebrate with the club's longest-serving captain Kelvin Davis.
Then just two minutes later, Puncheon found a consolation. A corner punched away by Forster landed at the feet of the winger who cut the ball onto his left foot before rifling the ball high into the top-left corner.
Southampton scored again in the 75th minute as Mane, who was a live-wire all afternoon, went down in the penalty box after being sandwiched by Pape Souare and Adrian Mariappa. Bertrand stepped up to take the penalty and converted it into the top-left corner.
Palace tried to respond through a blocked Mile Jedinak shot and a Puncheon cross which went agonisingly wide of the post, before Southampton made it 4-1. Davis met a ball chested down by Pelle in the penalty box to score his first home goal in over six months.
And despite Gayle nodding a header wide in the 89th minute, it was Southampton who finished the game with a comfortable win, and they can now look forward to Europa League football next season.
Southampton: Forster (7), Bertrand (7), Davis (7), Fonte (6), Long (6), Mane (9), Martina (6), Romeu (6), Tadic (7), van Dijk (7), Wanyama (6)
Subs: Pelle (8), Austin (6), Ward-Prowse (6)
Crystal Palace: Speroni (5), Ward (5), Delaney (6), Mariappa (5), Souare (6), Jedinak (6), McArthur (6), Puncheon (7), Mutch (5), Gayle (5), Adebayor (5)
Subs: Kaikai (6), Kelly (6), Chong-Yong (5)
Man of the match: Sadio Mane