Saints fall to frustrating home defeat


Southampton were unable to climb off the bottom of the Premier League table as visitors Brentford frustrated Saints with an efficient away performance at St Mary’s.

Ivan Toney scored the critical first goal of the game in the 32nd minute, tapping home from close range when a near-post corner was flicked on by Bees captain Christian Nørgaard.

Saints came closest to levelling things up in the opening seconds of the second half, but Ché Adams’s goal-bound shot was blocked on the line with goalkeeper David Raya beaten.

Otherwise Saints had plenty of the ball but little punch in the final third, and were punished by Yoane Wissa's late clincher on the break.

Rubén Sellés made two changes to the Saints side that took a deserved point home from Old Trafford on Sunday, managing the minutes of Roméo Lavia and Theo Walcott as the fresh legs of Ibrahima Diallo and Mohamed Elyounoussi were drafted in to top up the energy tank.

The manager could be happy enough with Saints’ start, with Kyle Walker-Peters setting off on a couple of forays down the right flank, before Brentford threatened from the game’s first corner.

Taken short to Bryan Mbeumo, his first-time cross looked inviting for Toney to hit on the volley, but the Bees’ top scorer snatched at the chance and completely mistimed it from the far side of the six-yard box.

Visiting keeper Raya made the first save of the night, albeit not from a shot, when James Ward-Prowse’s teasing cross evaded everybody inside the penalty area and sent the Spanish stopper flying to his left, before Gavin Bazunu made an even more impressive intervention at the other end as the contest showed signs of coming to life 20 minutes in.

This time it was Mbeumo on the end of the chance, as the cross came in from the opposite flank, helped on by Kevin Schade. Mbeumo’s volley was much sweeter than Toney’s, but clipped the inside of Bazunu’s right leg and stayed out as the Saints stopper picked up from where he’d left off against Manchester United on Sunday.

German winger Schade was making his first start since arriving from his homeland in January, and showed impressive pace to burst through down the left, again setting up Mbeumo, whose shot was blocked by Armel Bella-Kotchap as Saints retreated en masse.

The visitors were on a 12-match unbeaten run – the longest in the Premier League – before losing to Everton on Saturday, and their confidence was visibly growing as Saints struggled to sustain attacks.

Brentford were undeniably on top by the time the opener arrived 13 minutes before the interval, but Sellés will be frustrated with the ease at which the Bees were able to convert from a right-wing corner.

Mbeumo’s delivery was flicked on at the near post by Nørgaard and finished at the far by the predatory Toney, who got in front of Walker-Peters to prod the ball over the line.

Saints responded by at least giving Raya something to worry about. Ward-Prowse forced a low save from a deflected shot before Carlos Alcaraz drilled one just over, but these were half-chances at best from outside the box.

There was initially fresh impetus about the home team after half time; Saints should really have levelled the scores in the opening minute.

Alcaraz threaded a low pass through the defence for the rampaging Walker-Peters, whose cutback was turned goalwards by Adams but not beyond the covering Aaron Hickey, who, in tandem with Kamaldeen Sulemana, contrived to keep the ball out with Raya beaten.

Sellés may well have been plotting his first substitutions even before Walker-Peters worryingly pulled up with what looked like a hamstring injury.

Whilst the defender did soldier on temporarily, he was soon one of three players to be withdrawn as the manager introduced James Bree in his place, along with Lavia and Walcott – key players for Saints in recent matches.

The most influential figure remains Ward-Prowse, who had another chance to equal David Beckham’s Premier League free-kick record after striking the crossbar at the United legend’s former home last time out.

On this occasion, the skipper tried his luck from slightly unfamiliar territory towards the right corner of the penalty area, attempting to whip the ball back across Raya and into the far corner. He was not far away, though the Spaniard seemed to have it covered.

When Onuachu replaced Alcaraz soon after, Adams had a natural strike partner and Saints an obvious target to play off.

Slowly but surely, the hosts began to build momentum, but it was still proving difficult to trouble Raya in the Brentford goal.

With seven minutes of added time there was always hope, but it was the sprawling Bazunu who had to make a save, denying Mikkel Damsgaard’s skidding shot, before the ball broke kindly for Kamaldeen in a crowded penalty area at the other end, only for the winger to slice Saints’ last chance horribly off target.

With a matter of seconds left on the clock, Sellés's men were exposed when substitute Wissa raced through unopposed to wrap up the points for a Brentford side enjoying perhaps the best season in the club's history.