Saido Mane’s goal in the 82nd minute gave Southampton a late winner against Crystal Palace that lifted them back up to fifth place in the table. The Saints are now only a point behind fourth placed Manchester United.

The Senegalese forward’s chip over the despairing Palace keeper, Julian Speroni, ended Southampton’s home goal drought, which lasted since their 2-0 win against Arsenal on New Year’s Day.

As for the Eagles, this was their first away defeat since Alan Pardew became their boss in January. For much of the match Palace had less of the ball but the majority of the chances, while the Saints dominated the ball but had few opportunities on goal.

For long periods in the match it looked as though it was going to be the same story for goal-shy Southampton; the visitors were better organised and more spread-out after the break and almost hit the net when Wilfried Zaha, 22, struck the post with the most clear cut chance in the 55th minute.

The eventual goalscorer Mane was Southampton’s best attacking option throughout the game but, unfortunately, he missed many opportunities to take the lead in the first half. To alter the flow of the game in the second half, Dutchman Ronald Koeman brought on Serbian winger Dusan Tadic, 26, and his corner almost set up the opener when Graziano Pelle and Japanese defender Maya Yoshida nearly connected as the ball flew just wide of the back post.

It was the introduction of Saints’ youngster James Ward-Prowse that made an impact later on. Ward-Prowse had only been on the pitch for five minutes when, with eight minutes remaining, his surge towards the box made Julian Speroni push the shot straight out towards Mane, who clipped the ball in with a composed finish.

The result ended a barren spell of four games without a win for Champions League chasing Southampton. Even if Champions League qualification may prove to be a step too far, fifth place in the Premier League, however, would be a massive success and an excellent step in the progression of the south coast side.

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