Saints fall to Spurs defeat at Wembley

By SFC Media time Wed 05 Dec Tottenham v Saints
Photo by Matt Watson | Cédric

Early goals in each half proved decisive as Southampton fell to a 3-1 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley.

Spurs, coming off the back of a painful North London derby defeat three days prior, were quick to put things right as Harry Kane struck from close range in the ninth minute.

Saints came within a whisker of levelling the scores through a superb 25-yard shot from Pierre-Emile Højbjerg that forced an even better save from flying goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

But Tottenham were in no mood to allow the visitors back into the contest, as Lucas Moura and Son Heung-Min struck in the space of four second-half minutes to kill the game in front of the watching Ralph Hasenhüttl, who starts work as Saints’ new manager on Thursday.

Substitute Charlie Austin rifled home a late consolation after Saints had twice been denied by the crossbar in a spirited effort to give the travelling supporters something to cheer.

Saints, under interim boss Kelvin Davis, fielded a team of four changes following the 2-2 draw with Manchester United at St Mary’s.

Davis had no choice but to replace the suspended Mario Lemina and injured Michael Obafemi, while defenders Jannik Vestergaard and Yan Valery both dropped to the bench.

Matt Targett’s return from injury shifted Cédric back to his familiar role on the right side of a back four, while Steven Davis, James Ward-Prowse and Manolo Gabbiadini were all recalled.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: the new manager of Southampton Ralph Hasenhüttl(centre) during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton FC at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on December 5, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
New Saints boss Ralph Hasenhüttl watches on from the stands at Wembley

Coach Davis would have been concerned inside three minutes, as Eric Dier’s diagonal pass was nodded on by Kieran Trippier and smacked goalwards by Son, whose volley struck the base of the post and deflected off the diving Alex McCarthy en route back into play.

It was an early warning, but Spurs would not be denied and made the breakthrough soon after through familiar foe Kane, four times a scorer at Saints’ expense last season.

From a quickly-taken corner, Christian Eriksen’s low cross caught the visitors napping and in stepped Kane, getting across the near post for a simple poacher’s finish.

Saints responded positively, as in-form midfielder Stuart Armstrong burst forward, traded passes with Gabbiadini and steered a first-time shot narrowly wide, albeit the offside flag was up.

Armstrong would experience a dose of déjà vu when he shot wide from another offside position, by which time Saints could not believe they had not levelled things up.

Gabbiadini’s intelligent hold-up play invited support from midfield, including Højbjerg, whose first-time shot from the Italian’s lay-off looked unstoppable until Lloris somehow extended himself to tip it on to the inside of the post.

When Armstrong looked set to convert the rebound, his blushes were spared by the flag.

Saints were giving a good account of themselves, with one spell of sustained possession drawing cries of “olé” from the travelling fans.

But Spurs maintained a counter-attacking threat. McCarthy was on hand to keep out Kane, Son and Eriksen, while Dier’s glancing header dropped a couple of yards beyond the far post.

20181205 Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton
Hugo Lloris brilliantly denies Charlie Austin's low shot down to his left

Having flown out of the blocks, the hosts would have wanted a similar start to the second period, which is exactly what Moura provided within five minutes of the restart.

Trying his luck with a driven shot from a corner that struck Jack Stephens on the arm, the Brazilian stayed alive when others hesitated, and drilled in the follow-up – down into the ground, up into the net.

Saints had to dig deep to stay in the game, but instead shot themselves in the foot when Trippier charged down Targett’s clearance. The ball fell invitingly for Kane, who lifted his head and crossed low for Son to tap in number three.

When Nathan Redmond’s pursuit of his first goal of the season culminated in a looping deflection that thudded against the crossbar, Saints knew it wasn’t their night.

That sense of feeling was not about to change, as Lloris somehow threatened to preserve his clean sheet in the face of a late visiting flurry.

First Davis declined to shoot in electing to square the ball for Ward-Prowse, whose shot was blocked, before Ward-Prowse was denied by a point-blank Lloris save as the keeper made amends for allowing another Højbjerg drive to escape his grasp.

Then Austin tried his luck, arriving off the bench to replace Gabbiadini, as the striker's low shot looked destined for the bottom corner until the World Cup winner stuck out his left hand to make another sublime stop.

To their credit, Saints kept pressing right up until the final whistle, as again the crossbar intervened to deny substitute Mohamed Elyounoussi's close-range header, before Austin beat the offside trap and hammered home his first league goal of the season deep into added time.

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