Saints earn precious win at Brighton

By SFC Media Sat 30 Mar Brighton v Saints
Photo by Matt Watson
Sat 30 Mar 3PM
Premier League
Brighton & Hove Albion
0
Southampton
1
Højbjerg [53']
Stephens (15')
Stephens (83') Ward-Prowse (90+1')
Referee: Michael Oliver | Venue: American Express Community Stadium | Attendance: 30,636

Southampton took another big step towards achieving their goal of Premier League safety with a precious three points away to Brighton & Hove Albion.

Captain Pierre-Emile Højbjerg sealed what could prove to be a pivotal victory, as his second-half strike separated the sides at Amex Stadium and took Saints five points clear of the relegation zone.

The result also moved Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side level on points with Brighton, although the 15th-placed Seagulls remain above them by virtue of goal difference.

It is now back-to-back victories for Saints, who have seven games left in their season and who will now head into next Friday night’s home clash with title challengers Liverpool with a real spring in their step.

Hasenhüttl made two changes from the side that beat Tottenham 2-1 before a prolonged, three-week break in the schedule, with the headline news being that Danny Ings returned to the line-up from injury for the first time since early February.

Also restored to the starting XI was Stuart Armstrong, with Charlie Austin dropping to the bench and Jannik Vestergaard, who was suffering from a groin injury, missing out altogether.

Danny Ings on his return to action for Southampton (Photo: Matt Watson)

It meant a change in shape for Saints, who switched to a flat back four, rather than the three centre-backs which had been in evidence recently.

Ahead of kick-off, players from both teams joined together for a photo in support of the Premier League’s No Room For Racism campaign, while the opening stages saw a poignant moment, as fans applauded during the 12th minute in memory of 12-year-old local boy Mason Warwick, following his tragic passing last week.

It was a touching tribute, with Southampton supporters also joining their Seagulls counterparts in honouring the youngster.

On the pitch, and perhaps underlining the importance of the game, it was a cagey start to the contest, with neither side able to fashion a chance of any significance in the opening stages.

Indeed, it took until the 19th minute for the first effort of note to arrive, as Nathan Redmond latched onto a deep Yan Valery cross near the corner flag, before driving back towards the area, shifting the ball past Martin Montoya and firing a well-hit shot towards the near post of Matthew Ryan, only for the Brighton keeper to repel the effort.

Saints then had a muted appeal for a penalty turned down shortly after, as Ings went to ground under the attentions of Montoya as he attempted to reach a James Ward-Prowse cross, but referee Michael Oliver had no interest in the claim.

Chances were certainly few and far between, but what ones there were fell to the visitors, and they fashioned a second decent sight of goal on 34 minutes, as Armstrong’s clever cutback from the left side of the area picked out Ings in space 18 yards out. He took a touch to move the ball forward, but that gave just enough time for Bernardo to slide in and block his shot towards the far bottom corner.

Brighton’s first opportunity of note eventually arrived with six minutes left before half-time, as Alireza Jahanbakhsh nudged the ball into the right side of the area and took advantage of a slip from Maya Yoshida, only for Angus Gunn to react alertly, narrowing the angle and saving well.

With a minute left in the half, Saints then worked arguably the best chance of it, as Oriol Romeu played the ball into the feet of Ings 25 yards out, with the striker shifting to the right and playing it to Redmond on the overlap, but his low shot went wide of the near post.

Eight minutes into the second half, and Southampton finally made their superiority pay.

Højbjerg won the ball just inside the Brighton half, forcing the ball wide to Armstrong, who slipped a pass forward to Redmond. He burst into the area, then coolly played it to Højbjerg, who was running into space down the left-hand side, with the skipper taking a touch and poking the ball past Ryan from a tight angle to give Saints a 1-0 lead.

Pierre-Emile Højbjerg celebrates putting Saints in front (Photo: Matt Watson)

Spurred into greater action, Brighton sought an immediate response, with Lewis Dunk heading off target from a good position, before Anthony Knockaert curled just wide of the top corner from 20 yards.

After weathering that brief storm, Saints went close to doubling their lead just after the hour mark.

Armstrong worked his way across the area and found Ryan Bertrand in support, only for the full-back to see his left-footed shot towards the far bottom corner cleared from inside the six-yard box by the retreating Dunk.

Hasenhüttl then made his first change on 67 minutes, as Sam Gallagher replaced Ings, following a strong shift from the forward on his return to action.

As the match advanced into the final 20 minutes, Saints’ backs were beginning to be up against the wall a bit more, with Yoshida producing an excellent block to deny Glenn Murray, before Montoya rattled the crossbar with a left-footed thunderbolt from the edge of the area.

Manager Ralph Hasenhüttl instructs his team at Amex Stadium (Photo: Matt Watson)

Davy Propper also had a claim for a penalty dismissed, as he felt he was impeded by a combination of Gunn and Højbjerg, after the Saints keeper had been unable to claim a ball into the box.

Looking to shore things up, Hasenhüttl then replaced Armstrong with Jack Stephens, switching to three centre-backs at the heart of defence.

Still Brighton pushed, though, with Bernardo volleying wide when well-placed at the back post, and Shane Duffy just unable to slide in and reach a low ball across the face of goal, as the game wore on past 80 minutes.

Seagulls sub Jurgen Locadia then tested Gunn with a low drive from 20 yards, but the Saints keeper got down well to hold on, as the visitors crept ever closer towards the finishing line.

In the 89th minute, Josh Sims was introduced for Redmond, who had produced a tireless performance, as Hasenhüttl made his final change of the afternoon.

The four minutes of added time were nervy ones, but with little in the way of real incident for Saints' back-line to deal with, as Hasenhüttl's men ended the game celebrating another huge three points.

Brighton & Hove Albion

Head to Head Stats

Southampton
  • Possession (%)
    60
    40
  • Shots
    14
    8
  • Shots on target
    1
    2
  • Corners
    6
    5
  • Passes Complete
    388
    217

Brighton and Hove Albion

1
Mat Ryan (GK)
5
Lewis Dunk (C)
30
Bernardo
22
Martín Montoya
4
Shane Duffy
8
Yves Bissouma
6
Dale Stephens
24
Davy Pröpper
Jürgen Locadia (74′)
11
Anthony Knockaert
17
Glenn Murray
16
Alireza Jahanbakhsh
Solly March (62′)
27
David Button
7
Beram Kayal
33
Dan Burn
19
José Izquierdo
20
Solly March
3
Gaëtan Bong
9
Jürgen Locadia

Southampton

28
Angus Gunn (GK)
21
Ryan Bertrand
3
Maya Yoshida
35
Jan Bednarek
43
Yan Valery
14
Oriol Romeu
23
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (C)
16
James Ward-Prowse
17
Stuart Armstrong
Jack Stephens (76′)
22
Nathan Redmond
Josh Sims (89′)
9
Danny Ings
Sam Gallagher (67′)
1
Alex McCarthy
11
Mohamed Elyounoussi
33
Matt Targett
5
Jack Stephens
10
Charlie Austin
15
Sam Gallagher
39
Josh Sims
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