Top Fives: Best wins of 2021


We take a look back over five standout victories for Southampton in a year that’s thrown up a number of unique challenges, on and off the pitch…

Saints secured a day out at Wembley for their second FA Cup semi-final in four seasons after a convincing win along the south coast at Bournemouth. The hosts, who had reached their first quarter-final since 1957, were blown away by the brilliance of Nathan Redmond in the first half. First his driving run and defence-splitting pass invited Moussa Djenepo to slot in the opener, before another burst from deep carried him into the Bournemouth box, where an unerring finish found the top corner to deflate the Championship promotion chasers. Saints, who twice saw goals chalked off by VAR, were still yet to concede in the cup and made sure of their safe passage to the last four when Redmond followed up Stuart Armstrong’s shot that struck a post on the hour.

A victory significant for being the first time Saints had come from 2-0 down to win a Premier League match since the memorable triumph over Liverpool in March 2016. More than five years had passed before Burnley found themselves in a commanding position through goals in the first 28 minutes from strike pairing Chris Wood and Matěj Vydra. Crucially, Saints were quick to reply, first through Stuart Armstrong’s 20-yard shot from Danny Ings’s clever flick, before Ings went alone, beating Ben Mee to the ball and jinking inside James Tarkowski to finish in style on the stroke of half time. Cue a less chaotic second period, but Saints took the points and completed the turnaround when Nathan Redmond volleyed in Theo Walcott’s cross, as Fraser Forster twice denied Wood on a dramatic afternoon at St Mary’s.

West Ham have proved tricky opponents for Saints ever since Ralph Hasenhüttl’s arrival as manager three years ago. Despite victories over Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool in that time, defeating the Hammers had always been a bridge too far until last week’s Boxing Day triumph in the capital. Saints got off to the perfect start through Mohamed Elyounoussi’s early goal, but the half-time introduction of Michail Antonio paid instant dividends. Saints reclaimed the lead from the penalty spot, as James Ward-Prowse punished Craig Dawson’s clumsy challenge on Armando Broja, but again West Ham fought back to equalise. Undeterred, the visitors kept pushing, showing their spirit to overcome both setbacks to win the game through Jan Bednarek’s precise header – the perfect Christmas present for the travelling fans whose journey to the London Stadium hasn’t always been so fruitful.

Saints’ class of 2021 wrote their name into the record books by chalking up the club’s biggest ever away win, 8-0 at Newport in the Carabao Cup second round. A potentially tricky tie against opponents who had beaten Leicester, Leeds and Middlesbrough in recent season – and drawn with Tottenham – was safely negotiated before half time in south Wales. Armando Broja and Kyle Walker-Peters both struck their first goals for the club either side of Nathan Tella’s first-half strike, before Mohamed Elyounoussi took centre stage after the interval. The Norwegian, making his first Saints appearance in over two years, hit a hat-trick, while Broja added his second along with a goal for Nathan Redmond in a statement of intent from a number of players staking a claim for more Premier League minutes.

Saints’ first assignment of the new year was passed with flying colours, as Premier League champions Liverpool were beaten for the first time in the Ralph Hasenhüttl era. The hosts were sharp out of the blocks, illustrated by the only goal of the game inside two minutes, when James Ward-Prowse’s quick thinking from a free-kick gave Danny Ings the chance to lift the ball over Alisson and defeat his former club. Saints threatened a second goal through youngsters Nathan Tella and Yan Valery on a night when Hasenhüttl named 11 Academy graduates in the matchday squad, but it was his team’s defending that caught the eye, restricting Liverpool to minimal opportunities and chalking up a third successive clean sheet, prompting an emotional Hasenhüttl to sink to his knees at full time.