Saints edged out in five-goal thriller

By SFC Media time Sat 24 Nov Fulham v Saints
Photo by Matt Watson | Charlie Austin
Sat 24 Nov 3PM
Premier League
Mitrovic [33' 63'] Schürrle [43']
Armstrong [18' 53']
Mawson (45+1') Johansen (90+3')
yellow card
Højbjerg (68') Hoedt (73') Obafemi (90+3')
Referee: Michael Oliver | Venue: Craven Cottage | Attendance: 24,603

Southampton fell to defeat at fellow strugglers Fulham, as they were beaten 3-2 in a pulsating game at Craven Cottage.

Stuart Armstrong’s first goals for the club were not enough to stave off a particularly painful defeat that now leaves Saints outside the Premier League’s bottom three by virtue of goal difference.

Aleksandar Mitrović’s double, either side of an André Schürrle strike, did the damage for the hosts in a back-and-forth encounter where momentum swung dramatically and regularly.

Saints had looked on course for a valuable result when Armstrong fired them into an early lead, but they were playing catch-up by half-time, and, despite an Armstrong leveller after the break, were unable to successfully claw their way back against a Fulham side inspired by Claudio Ranieri’s first game as manager.

There were two changes from Mark Hughes for the game, both enforced, as Ryan Bertrand missed out because of a one-game ban, while top-scorer Danny Ings was sidelined through injury.

That meant left-back Matt Targett came in at left-back, while Charlie Austin was restored to the attack.

Bertrand’s absence also meant a change in captain for the day, with midfielder Pierre-Emile Højbjerg being handed the armband for the first time in his Saints career.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 24: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg of Southampton ahead of the Premier League match between Fulham FC and Southampton FC at Craven Cottage on November 24, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg was named captain at Fulham (Photo: Matt Watson)

Ahead of the game, Hughes had called on his players to up their conversion rate and not allow golden opportunities to pass them by.

It took less than six minutes for Saints to create one, but, when they did, they were again unable to capitalise.

A loose ball fell to Armstrong 25 yards out, and, fresh from two fine performances with Scotland over the break, he showed tremendous control to connect with the bouncing ball and send it skidding goalwards. There, Sergio Rico could only palm it into the path of Manolo Gabbiadini, who was presented with the goal at his mercy, but, in trying to roll the ball back into the far corner, he could only hit it straight at the Fulham keeper.

Saints were dominating the game in the early stages, with Fulham only sporadically able to move the ball deep in their half.

They did do so, however, in the 15th minute, earning a corner from which ex-Saint Calum Chambers met Jean Michaël Seri’s delivery, with Alex McCarthy well-placed to save and hold his downward header.

It was an important stop, as, just three minutes later, Saints took the lead.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 24: Stuart Armstrong of Southampton opens the scoring during the Premier League match between Fulham FC and Southampton FC at Craven Cottage on November 24, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Stuart Armstrong fires Saints into an early lead at Craven Cottage (Photo: Matt Watson)

Targett’s throw-in from the left, 18 yards from the corner flag, found the run of Nathan Redmond near the byline. He lifted a cross into the area, which was headed clear by Fulham towards the edge of the box, where Armstrong coolly chested it into space and then sent a right-footed strike back across goal and into the bottom corner.

Fulham came to life a little more after that, although Ryan Sessegnon’s long-range drive that flew a yard over on the half-hour mark was as close as they came to registering a response up to that point.

Three minutes later, though, they were very much on target.

Maxime Le Marchand raced onto a ball down the inside-left, digging out a cross from the byline that found Mitrović in space on the edge of the six-yard box, and he glanced a clever header across goal and inside the far post to level the score at 1-1.

Gabbiadini sought an instant reply from Saints, but his 30-yard drive, although extremely well struck, was straight into the arms of a grateful Rico.

The game was becoming a real end-to-end contest now, and Fulham then went close to taking the lead, only for Cyrus Christie’s shot from the corner of the area to fizz just past the far post.

Straight back down the other end we went, this time for a half-chance for Mario Lemina, but he glanced his near-post header from a Targett free-kick high and wide.

It felt like a goal was coming, and indeed it was. Unfortunately for Saints, it was Fulham who got it.

Sessegnon showed some good footwork down the left to beat Gabbiadini and Cédric in the 43rd minute, fizzing a low ball across the face of goal, which picked out the run of Schürrle at the back post to perfection, and he stroked a right-footed shot past Alex McCarthy to complete the turnaround for the hosts.

It meant an afternoon that had started so well for Saints had turned into a troubling one by half-time.

It almost got even more worrisome six minutes after the break, as Fulham launched into a counter-attack, with Mitrović releasing Schürrle down the right before the midfielder returned the favour to his forward partner, sliding a pass in for his run through the middle, but his quick touch and shot from inside the area produced a brilliant save from McCarthy, diving low to his right to somehow tip the ball away.

It was an important moment, as Saints levelled the game just moments later.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 24: Stuart Armstrong of Southampton scores his second during the Premier League match between Fulham FC and Southampton FC at Craven Cottage on November 24, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Stuart Armstrong scores his second of the afternoon for Saints (Photo: Matt Watson)

Cédric pounced on a loose ball 25 yards out, exchanged passes with Gabbiadini and then produced a clever back-heel to lay the ball into the path of Armstrong, who rifled a stunning right-footed effort into the top corner.

Parity did not last long, though, as the hosts restored their advantage on 63 minutes.

Christie’s cross from the right was flicked on by Sessegnon, with Mitrović reacting brilliantly to slam a right-footed volley back across goal and into the far corner for 3-2.

Hughes then made his first change, withdrawing Austin and sending on Mohamed Elyounoussi in his place.

Saints almost drew level again, in the 72nd minute, as Højbjerg shifted the ball into space inside the area and crashed a left-footed shot goal wards, which Rico did well to turn away.

Armstrong departed to applause from the travelling fans with ten minutes left, having had a cramp issue shortly before, with Hughes sending on 18-year-old striker Michael Obafemi for another appearance.

He had a big chance to score a memorable leveller with just three minutes left on the clock, as he got onto a bouncing ball 18 yards out, but his slicing effort went just past the top corner.

Saints continued to push, Højbjerg claiming he was tripped in the area by Sessegnon and Obafemi being denied at close range by Rico, but, for all their effort, a crucial third goal eluded them, leaving the hosts celebrating all three of the precious points at full-time.


Head to Head Stats

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Sergio Rico (GK)
Cyrus Christie
Denis Odoi
Alfie Mawson yellow card
Maxime Le Marchand
Jean Michael Seri
replace Stefan Johansen (68′) yellow card
André Schürrle goal
replace Aboubakar Kamara (74′)
Ryan Sessegnon
Calum Chambers
Tom Cairney (C)
Aleksandar Mitrovic goal goal
replace Floyd Ayité (86′)
Tim Ream
Marcus Bettinelli
Stefan Johansen
Neeskens Kebano
Aboubakar Kamara
Joe Bryan
Floyd Ayité


Alex McCarthy (GK)
Wesley Hoedt yellow card
Matt Targett
Maya Yoshida
Cédric Soares
Nathan Redmond
Mario Lemina
Manolo Gabbiadini
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (C) yellow card
Stuart Armstrong goal goal
replace Michael Obafemi (81′) yellow card
Charlie Austin
replace Mohamed Elyounoussi (68′)
Steven Davis
Jack Stephens
Jannik Vestergaard
Mohamed Elyounoussi
James Ward-Prowse
Michael Obafemi
Angus Gunn
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