Adams stunner helps Saints blunt Blades


Southampton finally ended their winless run with a convincing away victory over Sheffield United that propelled Saints 10 points clear of the bottom three.

The afternoon did not start well for Ralph Hasenhüttl, with star striker Danny Ings forced off with a groin injury, but replacement Ché Adams stole the show on his old stomping ground.

James Ward-Prowse fired in a first-half penalty after the lively Nathan Tella was upended in the box, before Adams completed the scoring early in the second period with a spectacular half-volley that flew into the top corner.

It means three Premier League points for Saints for the first time in two months, halting a run of nine top-flight games without a win.

Hasenhüttl was able to welcome back Kyle Walker-Peters, Ibrahima Diallo and Takumi Minamino from injury, leaving Saints fielding their strongest starting line-up for many weeks.

Also coming into the side was the energetic Tella, as Mohammed Salisu, Moussa Djenepo, Nathan Redmond and Adams dropped out to make up half of the outfield options on a much more experienced bench.

Neither side had been able to establish any sort of rhythm by the time Hasenhüttl was forced to withdraw his top scorer. For every positive piece of team news at the moment, another injury never seems far away.

Jumping for a high ball, Ings felt his groin straight away and was unable to shake off the problem, prompting Adams to limber up and enter the fray against his former club much earlier than expected, with the game only 13 minutes old.

By the midpoint in the first half, not much had changed. The hosts were clearly targeting Fraser Forster from corners, swinging the ball underneath his crossbar, but goal attempts were in short supply.

The presence of Walker-Peters high on the right flank offers a target for Jannik Vestergaard’s raking diagonal passes.

It has proved a successful tactic for Saints this season, and might have paved the way for the opening goal when Enda Stevens intercepted a trademark Vestergaard exocet, inadvertently diverting the ball straight to Tella.

With goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale out of his goal, the youngster just had to compose himself, but rather snatched at the chance and sent his shot high and wide from long range.

But Tella would soon make amends with a goal-creating moment soon after, as his speed took him away from Ethan Ampadu, whose lunge in the box was ill-advised and had inevitable consequences.

Up stepped Ward-Prowse to dispatch the spot-kick in the absence of Ings, as the skipper sent Ramsdale the wrong way with authority.

The Blades’ response was an enticing set-piece from John Fleck that was headed into the ground by Kean Bryan, bouncing up and over Forster’s crossbar.

United had reacted well to falling behind, with former Saint David McGoldrick forcing a fine low save from Forster, who was not to know the assistant referee would subsequently raise his flag for offside.

Then the hosts optimistically appealed for a penalty of their own when Jayden Bogle went to ground on the byeline, but Ward-Prowse’s conscience was clear.

Saints ought to have seen out the half with minimal fuss, but were nearly punished when Diallo conceded possession in midfield, allowing McGoldrick to race through on goal, but the veteran marksman opted to try chipping the towering figure of Forster, for whom the save was no more than catching practice.

If Saints were guilty of a sloppy end to the first half, the same could not be said for the start of the second period.

Straight on the front foot, Walker-Peters’s low cross found its way to Adams at the far post, who forced a low save from Ramsdale from a tight angle.

Perhaps that gave the striker the shot of confidence he needed. Without a goal in 16 games, it was impossible to tell when Stuart Armstrong smartly chested the ball down to him just outside the box.

Stepping on to the bouncing ball, Adams took great satisfaction in meeting it first time with a thunderous half-volley that rose all the way into the top corner of Ramsdale’s net, leaving the keeper clutching at thin air.

United may have picked up three points in midweek, but remain rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table with little prospect of survival, and the second goal left the home team with a similar mountain to climb in this game alone.

By contrast, Saints had a spring in their step, as Tella sent Ramsdale sprawling down to his left to tip the ball past his post.

Then Ryan Bertrand got around the back, fed by Armstrong, and picked out Minamino who looked certain to score, only for the Japanese international to shoot wide from eight yards.

Then Adams went racing through, looking for his fifth goal in three games against his former employers, but Ramsdale spread himself well to deny the rejuvenated frontman.

The impressive Tella was sacrificed 15 minutes from the end, prompting replacement Redmond to go close, as Ramsdale had to be alert once again to keep the score down, before Armstrong dragged a low shot inches wide at the end of a fine solo run.

The hosts were being thoroughly outplayed, with Fleck demonstrating their frustration with a late tackle that angered Saints, but for the visitors this was a job well done.