Southampton's recent resurgence continued on Saturday as they played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at home to Crystal Palace.
Both teams were riding high after Boxing Day wins, but the first half was an ill-tempered affair. Max Meyer's 15th-minute strike was ruled out by VAR as Wilfried Zaha was caught offside, and Palace looked frustrated for much of the 45 minutes.
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The second half was calmer and produced both goals, as the visitors broke the deadlock when James Tomkins (50) nodded home. It was then a rare mistake from Martin Kelly that allowed Danny Ings through to score the equaliser (74) as Southampton extended their unbeaten run to three games.
The Saints remain in 15th on 22 points - four ahead of the bottom three - while Palace also stay put in ninth.
How the points were shared at St Mary's
The hot-blooded first half saw a disallowed goal for Palace in the 15th minute. It would have been a wonderful effort too, as Zaha drove down the left-hand side before finding Meyer in the middle. He powered the ball home brilliantly, but the strike was reviewed by VAR. The 3D lines were deployed, showing Zaha's shoulder was offside, and the goal was ultimately ruled out.
Palace became more and more frustrated as the first half wore on, and Luka Milivojevic was the first into the book in the 33rd minute after a tackle on Sofiane Boufal. He angrily confronted referee Andy Madley while James Ward-Prowse and James McCarthy had a minor off-the-ball confrontation. Less than a minute later, James McArthur showed his own frustration as he was penalised for a foul on Nathan Redmond.
Southampton: A McCarthy (6), Soares (7), Stephens (6), Bednarek (7), Bertrand (7), Boufal (7), Ward-Prowse (7), Hojbjerg (7), Redmond (7), Ings (7), Adams (5).
Subs used: Djenepo (7), Armstrong (6).
Crystal Palace: Guaita (8), Kelly (6), Tomkins (8), Sakho (7), Riedewald (7), J McCarthy (7), Milivojevic (7), McArthur (7), Meyer (7), Ayew (6), Zaha (7).
Subs used: Kouyate (n/a).
Man of the match: James Tomkins.
Ward-Prowse lined up the resultant free-kick and whipped a sensational effort across the face of goal, with an unmarked Jan Bednarek finding the delivery towards the back post. However, it just bounced at the wrong time for the defender, who fired the fizzing ball past the post as the first half ended without a shot on target.
Five minutes into the second half, and Palace broke the deadlock. It was a sensational free-kick from Milivojevic that found the rising head of Tomkins and the defender then sent the ball home via the underside of the crossbar. It was some much-needed redemption for the visitors, and Tomkins' first goal since January.
- Southampton made two changes from their win against Chelsea. Stuart Armstrong and Michael Obafemi dropped out with Sofiane Boufal and Danny Ings replacing them.
- Crystal Palace also made two changes from their West Ham win. Jairo Riedewald and James McCarthy replaced Patrick van Aanholt (injured) and Cheikhou Kouyate (bench).
It was then a rare mistake from Kelly that allowed Southampton to equalise, with Palace looking composed and organised until that point. Kelly's sloppy squared pass for Tomkins allowed Ings onto the ball, with the striker then driving into the area. He made no mistake in slotting home past the oncoming Vicente Guaita as the Saints burst into life for the remainder of the game.
Palace have their goalkeeper to thank for keeping them level too, as Guaita made a superb save just after the goal. It was a wonderful solo run from substitute Moussa Djenepo that saw him cut into the area and strike, but the Eagles 'keeper acrobatically stretched to push the effort away. He then flicked away an Ings header after another impressive corner from Ward-Prowse.
Southampton continued to push for the winner and Djenepo was causing problems again on the left as his cross was nodded goalwards by Ings, but the in-form striker just headed over the crossbar. Guaita showed no ill effects following a brief visit from the medical team as he made a leaping save from a trademark Ward-Prowse free-kick late on, with both sides eventually taking a point from St Mary's.
Man of the match - James Tomkins
It was a sensational game from Tomkins at both ends. Let's start with his assigned job in defence and he was there on a number of occasions to snuff out the Southampton attack, making block after block as the hosts racked up 12 corners and numerous set pieces. He was one of the main reasons why Ings had a quiet first half.
But perhaps his most important contribution came in attack, with his powerful header opening things up for Palace. Tomkins almost scored a copycat goal later in the second half, but could not direct his effort on target.
As Palace continue to struggle with defensive injuries, they will really need the literal and figurative calm head of Tomkins to help them through this busy period.
What the managers said
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl: "I think coming back into this game against this opponent is not so easy, although we had more chances in the end to win the game. It was one of our better performances at home against a difficult opponent because they're sitting deep, not giving us a lot of space and I think we had good subs today. We still believe in what we are doing and we have seen a much better performance.
"I feel that we are a much better defending team, we didn't give away so many chances and I think in the last three games, seven points is really good and a good performance, especially with this short time of rest we have in between the two games, which is not easy for the two teams. I think we saw a very speedy game.
"I think my team showed today that mentally and physically, they are at the top. They tried to win until the last minute and this mentality and attitude is what I want to see on Wednesday again."
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson: "I am [disappointed not to win], but given the situation we found ourselves in going into the game, I thought it was an incredible performance once again from the players to lead for such a long period of time and almost take a lead in the first half as well, but the goal was chalked off a little bit unfortunately for us. I've got to be more pleased and satisfied with the players performance than being disappointed that it was only one point rather than all three… I thought the players showed an awful lot of spirit and resilience. I thought they were good value for their point here.
"The big problem with technology is that it's like speed cameras. When they say you've done 32 or 33 and not 30, can you be 100 per cent certain you have done 32 and not 29? That's where we are with VAR and as a result, we get the situation where people are becoming a bit disillusioned because they're seeing good goals chalked off by very small margins of space, if you like.
"They're also have to wait for quite long periods so when a goal is scored, you never quite know. I'm still foolish enough to celebrate the goal we scored, I couldn't possibly believe it could have been offside. I have to wait until afterwards and show it 100 times on the TV and put my glasses on to make sure I can see it right."
- Southampton have lost just two of their last eight Premier League games (W4 D2 L2), after losing six of the seven before that.
- 14 of Crystal Palace's 20 Premier League games this season were goalless at half-time, six more than any other side.
- Southampton striker Danny Ings has scored 12 goals in his 20 Premier League appearances this season, his best-ever haul in a single top-flight campaign.
Southampton play the second of three home games on New Year's Day as they welcome Tottenham to St Mary's in the Premier League (kick-off 3pm). Palace will once again be on the road as they visit Norwich on Wednesday (kick-off 5.30pm)