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 4-0 Tottenham
4th January 2003
Don’t you just hate all those repeats at Christmas and New Year? Not if it is Saints seeing off Spurs!
Just three days after beating Glenn Hoddle’s men 1-0 in the Premier League, Southampton stormed to an even more emphatic victory in the first FA Cup tie to be played at St Mary’s.
The visitors were still reeling from their New Year’s Day defeat when they had dominated the game only to be denied by a string of superb saves from Antti Niemi.
Then, with just eight minutes remaining, Fabrice Fernandes played a glorious long ball down the right for James Beattie to turn sharply past his former teammate Dean Richards.
He cut in on goal and fired home left-footed from a tight angle to lift Gordon Strachan’s side to sixth and push Tottenham down to ninth.
Hoddle was clearly smarting at the loss to the club he had departed in such acrimonious circumstances and the perceived wisdom was that it would be a very different story when the sides met again in the second part of the quick-fire double-header.
It was – but not in the way most expected. This time it was Saints who controlled the game and made their chances count.
It wasn’t as though the visitors rotated their squad either, with 14 of the Spurs 16 on duty in both games; they were simply overwhelmed.
The league meeting clearly had a major impact on both sides. Spurs looked flat and fatigued, deflated by the late winner which clearly gave Saints a massive lift.
Gordon Strachan’s side picked up where they had left off three days earlier and tore into the opposition from the start, quickly imposing their authority and giving the visitors no time to settle on the ball.
And they got their reward after just 13 minutes when a trademark surging run by Wayne Bridge was abruptly ended on the edge of the area by future Saint Chris Perry.
Beattie’s low free-kick beat the wall and took a wicked kick off the pitch to force a spillage from another future Saint, Kasey Keller. Michael Svensson was quickest to react with a long-legged lunge to force home from close range.
That seemed to knock the belief out of Spurs who rarely looked like denting Southampton’s unbeaten home record – despite Saints losing midfield maestro Chris Marsden with a hamstring problem after just 27 minutes.
The tie was put to bed with a blistering start to the second half. Five minutes after Hoddle brought on former Bitterne Park schoolboy Darren Anderton and switched to 4-4-2, his plan was dismantled by another clinical move.
A penetrating pass from Bridge was touched on perfectly by Beattie for Jo Tessem steaming in to the left of goal. His first-time left-foot shot beat Keller down to his left.
Robbie Keane briefly burst into life, drawing a fine save from Niemi with Bridge blocking the follow-up from Teddy Sheringham, but any hopes of a revival were quickly snuffed out.
On 56 minutes, substitute Anders Svensson scored a glorious solo goal, darting from just inside his own half to the edge of the area as the Tottenham defence backpedaled in panic. Tessem’s decoy run opened up the space for the Swede to fire a low 20-yard shot, which went through Keller who was enduring an increasingly torrid afternoon.
Ten minutes from time Beattie got the goal his display deserved. Substitute Kevin Davies hung up a delightful cross from the right for the unmarked Beattie, whose initial header was parried by Keller. The ball came straight back to the striker who lashed home to complete the rout.
It was enough to extend Southampton’s unbeaten run to nine matches in all competitions but more importantly it set them on their way to the final and left Strachan purring with delight.
He said: "As a complete performance of asking the team to do everything at different times, that was as good as it gets.
"I'm glad it was shown live on BBC, because if I got excited and said this is the way we played, half the people wouldn't have believed me. But it was there for their own eyes to see.”
Saints: Niemi, Telfer, Lundekvam, M Svensson, Bridge, Fernandes, Delap, Marsden (A Svensson 27), Oakley, Beattie (Ormerod 87), Tessem (Davies 79).
Unused subs: Jones, Williams.
Tottenham: Keller, Carr, Perry (Anderton 46), King, Taricco, Davies (Doherty 73), Freund (Iversen 65), Poyet, Thatcher, Keane, Sheringham.
Unused subs: Sullivan, Bunjevcevic.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).