LONDON (AFP) – Southampton climbed back into the Premier League’s top four with a 3-1 win against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Friday.
Ronald Koeman’s side moved into the fourth and final Champions League place with their second successive victory to maintain their revival after a run of five games without a win.
Senegal winger Sadio Mane’s third goal for Southampton, and his first since October, opened the scoring in rain-lashed south London and second half strikes from Ryan Bertrand and Toby Alderweireld sealed the points.
Palace have gone six matches without a win since their shock victory over Liverpool last month and Neil Warnock’s team slipped into the relegation zone after a dispiriting performance.
Romania defender Florin Gardos was handed his first Premier League start in place of suspended former Eagles defender Jose Fonte, while Mane and Morgan Schneiderlin also came into the Saints line-up.
Southampton, buoyed by their win against Everton last time out, were quickly in their stride and almost took the lead when Alderweireld’s looping effort hit the crossbar.
The visitors continued to dominate the early stages and deservedly went ahead in the 17th minute when Mane raced onto Steven Davis’s pass and rounded Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni before slotting into the empty net.
Fraser Forster preserved Southampton’s lead with saves from Mile Jedinak and Joel Ward.
Fraizer Campbell then hit the crossbar from Jedinak’s header as Palace probed for an equaliser, but the effort wouldn’t have counted as the flag had already gone up for offside.
Koeman’s team could have added a second before the break when Bertrand’s deflected cross was only half cleared by Jedinak and James Ward-Prowse headed just over.
But they didn’t have to wait long to double their lead as former Chelsea defender Bertrand struck in the 48th minute.
Mane was the provider this time as he skipped past Ward and crossed for Graziano Pelle.
The Italian missed his shot but Bertrand was on hand to rifle a first-time effort into the top corner.
Southampton’s third goal killed off the contest in the 53rd minute when Belgian defender Alderweireld powered a header past Speroni for his first Saints goal.
England right-back Nathaniel Clyne stung Speroni’s hands with a blistering effort as Southampton almost added a fourth goal.
Dann’s 86th minute header reduced the deficit but that was little consolation for well-beaten Palace.