It's been seven years to the day since Dušan Tadić was involved in five of Southampton's eight goals in the rout of Sunderland at St Mary's. But where does that performance rank among the Serbian's best moments for the club?
The goal Tadić scored in this game summed him up. After having a hand in the opener, playing a neat pass down the left for Ryan Bertrand, whose cutback was converted by Charlie Austin, the Serbian added his name to the scoresheet in the second half. This time Austin returned the favour with an excellent first-time pass through the West Ham defence for Tadić, who found himself eye to eye with Hammers stopper Adrián. The rest was quintessentially Dušan, as a jink of the hips fooled the keeper, allowing the midfielder to evade his opponent without even touching the ball. He duly rolled in Saints’ second en route to a 3-0 win on the club’s first visit to the London Stadium. Sheer class.
With eight goals, Tadić’s second season was his most prolific in England, and the last two of his personal haul came in this entertaining victory at Villa Park in April. After heading Saints in front, Shane Long turned provider, winning the ball in the Villa box and looking up to see Tadić, who had run 50 yards to sweep home on his right foot. The duo combined again in the second half to restore the two-goal cushion after the hosts had pulled a goal back. Again Tadić’s off-the-ball movement was influential, as he played the ball to Long and followed his pass, receiving the return on the edge of the Villa box, shifting the ball on to his left foot and scoring with a precise low shot from 20 yards. A cute reverse pass for Cédric led to Saints’ clinching goal, as Sadio Mané headed home for 4-2.
By the time of his eighth Premier League appearance, Tadić was still yet to score in the competition, but that was about to change as he put on a show in a game that will be remembered forever by all who witnessed it. Saints hit sorry Sunderland for eight at St Mary’s, with Tadić assisting no less than four of the goals, equalling a Premier League record in the process. His goal was eye-catching in itself, capitalising on a sloppy clearance from goalkeeper Vito Mannone to score with a first-time curling shot into the open corner from 30 yards, but it was his creativity that left a lasting legacy on this match. Jack Cork, Graziano Pellè, Victor Wanyama and Sadio Mané all profited, as two assists with either foot showcased his ability.
Three months later, Tadić was only a substitute when Ronald Koeman led his team into battle against compatriot Louis van Gaal, with Saints seeking a first league win at Old Traffrd in 27 years. The game was still goalless when Koeman played his trump card by introducing Tadić in the 63rd minute. Six minutes later, the Serbian was making a name for himself with an iconic moment in Saints’ recent history. It was his pass that released Pellè to his right, who looked set to break the deadlock only to strike the foot of the post. But Tadić stayed alive for the loose ball, threading a first-time shot through a crowded penalty area and into the unguarded net on the rebound. Off he went, celebrating in front of the euphoric travelling Saints fans and showing off his impressive six-pack in an abiding image of a famous victory.
Whilst less spectacular than his Sunderland haul and less memorable than his Manchester United heroics, it was on this day against Bournemouth that Tadić made his most important contribution for Southampton. This was a nerve-shredding day at St Mary’s when Saints knew they really had to win. Coming into the game with only one victory in 21 Premier League matches, and without a home win in five months, it was now or never. Thankfully Tadić could be relied upon to stay calm under pressure, and he rolled his team into a first-half lead with a cool finish from Mario Lemina’s pass. After Josh King equalised, it was down to Tadić to rescue Saints again, doing so with a moment of individual brilliance in the 54th minute. Running at the Bournemouth defence, he improvised with an unexpected toe-poke from 16 yards that flew into the bottom corner, and Saints had finally stopped the rot en route to Premier League survival.