Built on Saints
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of our much-loved home, Graham Hiley tells the tale of the stadium’s most memorable Southampton victories.
Saints 2-1 Chelsea
30th March 2013
This was the day Saints properly came of age on their return to the Premier League as they defeated the champions of Europe.
This was the final part of a trilogy which perfectly illustrated the progress Southampton were making as they re-established themselves back in the top flight.
Just two months earlier they had been hammered 5-1 at home by Chelsea in the FA Cup; two weeks later they came from two down to draw 2-2 at Stamford Bridge in what proved to be the final game in charge for Nigel Adkins.
His departure came as a shock but Mauricio Pochettino made an immediate impact as he set about steering the side to safety while simultaneously setting his sights even higher.
His first win in charge came against champions-elect Manchester City, the second against Liverpool – both clinically dispatched 3-1 at St Mary’s.
If those were dismissed as flukes by the national press, there was no doubting the statement made by this victory, even allowing for the fact Blues boss Rafa Benitez rotated his squad, making seven changes.
This was the first time Saints had ever beaten Chelsea at St Mary’s and it was totally on merit as they ripped into the visitors from the start.
Jay Rodriguez seemed to be enjoying a new lease of life under the new manager and took just two minutes to draw a save from Petr Cech after flipping the ball over John Terry to break clear.
The keeper then stopped well from Jason Puncheon with both Nathaniel Clyne and Rickie Lambert seeing efforts blocked before the home side got the goal their dominance deserved.
Rodriguez played sideways to Steven Davis in the inside-left position. As soon as the ball left his boot, the striker burst forward ready to receive the return he knew was coming as the new manager’s style paid dividends.
Davis clinically picked him out in space and the £7million summer signing steered a precise shot across goal and just inside the far post.
Despite being outplayed, the visitors were a threat on the counter and a slip-up by Maya Yoshida allowed Fernando Torres to break through and score, only for the effort to be ruled out because he nudged the ball with a hand in the build-up.
The Champions League contenders did level on 33 minutes when John Terry was left free at a Marko Marin corner and inevitably powered home the header.
But two minutes later came the winner which almost took the roof off St Mary’s and intensified the calls for Lambert to be given an England call-up as Davis was fouled by future Saint Ryan Bertrand.
It was a proper “I was there” moment as Lambert lined up a free-kick fully 30 yards out. There was an air of anticipation as the 31-year-old strode forward and whipped a ferocious curling shot over the wall and into the left-hand corner with Cech unable to get near it.
The home side suffered a setback at the interval as goalkeeper Artur Boruc complained of dizziness – the rest of us knew just how he felt after an intoxicating first half.
Kelvin Davis was pressed into action and kept his side in front with two superb saves, first from Frank Lampard and then from Victor Moses. As the travelling fans jeered their manager, Benitez threw on Ramires, Yossi Benayoun and Hazard, who saw a shot flash across the face of goal.
Lampard went close twice more but Southampton hung on, fuelled by the newfound belief and tempo instilled by the manager.
The victory not only lifted them four points clear of the drop zone but also maintained the momentum which would carry them to a comfortable 14th-place finish, while Chelsea’s hold on a top-four place was cut to just two points.
Pochettino said: "We deserved the win and had good chances to get a better result but we weren’t able to score.
"I am really happy with the performance of my players and especially the players that don’t normally get to play as much. It’s important to highlight how well they played.
“Victories like today prove that we are on the right path. It is very important for the confidence of my players and especially the people surrounding our club, the technical staff.
"It is important that we believe we can achieve results as we saw today, and we can continue achieving them in the future."
Saints: Boruc (K.Davis 46), Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Shaw, Schneiderlin, Cork, Puncheon (Ward-Prowse 62), S.Davis (Fox 85), Rodriguez, Lambert. Unused subs: Fonte, Ramirez, Forren, Do Prado.
Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Terry, Bertrand, Mikel (Ramires 71), Lampard, Moses, Oscar (Benayoun 76), Marin (Hazard 60), Torres. Unused subs: Turnbull, Cole, Luiz, Ba.
Referee: Jon Moss.