Saints pegged back after Long breaks record

By SFC Media time Tue 23 Apr Watford v Saints
Photo by Matt Watson | Shane Long
Tue 23 Apr 7.45PM
Premier League
Gray [90']
Long [1']
Capoue (26') Doucouré (40') Deulofeu (57') Kabasele (75') Masina (80')
yellow card
Romeu (17') Bednarek (45+2')
Referee: Mike Dean | Venue: Vicarage Road | Attendance: 19,170

Two goals 89 minutes apart were shared as Shane Long wrote his name into the record books with the fastest strike in Premier League history, en route to a valuable point at Watford that Southampton will feel should have been three.

Long’s opportunistic effort, officially timed at 7.69 seconds after he dispossessed Craig Cathcart straight from kick-off, shattered the previous record of 19 years held by Ledley King, whose goal at Bradford back in 2000 clocked in at 9.82 seconds.

That it looked like being the winner for so long was even more remarkable considering the glut of scoring chances that followed, particularly in a pulsating first half in which Saints twice struck the foot of the post.

A more conservative second period followed, with record-breaker Long later hobbling off injured, as Saints looked to have done enough to hold on.

But with stoppage time approaching, Andre Gray rescued a point for FA Cup finalists Watford with a powerful shot that crashed in off the underside of the crossbar.

Ralph Hasenhüttl made two changes to his side that started the 3-1 defeat at Newcastle on Saturday, citing the need to be quicker out of the blocks in Saints’ penultimate away game of the campaign.

In came Stuart Armstrong, a half-time substitute at St James’ Park, and Long in place of Josh Sims and Danny Ings, who dropped to the bench alongside Yan Valery – himself back in the squad after illness.

Hasenhüttl’s wish for a faster start was granted in record time.

Ironically it was Watford who took the kick-off, but when the ball was played back to Cathcart, Long was razor sharp to charge down the defender’s clearance and run through on goal.

As Ben Foster advanced, the Irishman had the composure to lift the ball over the advancing keeper and leave his former West Brom teammate picking the ball out of his net earlier than any goalkeeper since the Premier League was formed 27 years ago.

Vicarage Road, but for the pocket of Saints fans behind Angus Gunn’s goal and those still shuffling in to take their seats, fell silent.

WATFORD, ENGLAND - APRIL 23: Shane Long(7) of Southampton celebrates with his team mates after opening the scoring during the Premier League match between Watford FC and Southampton FC at Vicarage Road on April 23, 2019 in Watford, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Shane Long is mobbed after making history at Vicarage Road

Watford, surely stunned, nearly responded instantly in a surreal opening, as Gray fed Will Hughes on the right and Saints found themselves wide open.

From Hughes’s return pass, Gray was first denied by a crucial Gunn save before heading the rebound over the bar as the ball looped up into the air with the keeper still grounded.

Then Gerard Deulofeu, scorer of eight goals in his last nine games, set his sights on another with a trademark curling shot that had Gunn scampering to his left and relieved to see it lack the necessary bend to nestle inside his far post.

Back came Saints as the breathless start continued. James Ward-Prowse, again operating in the right wing-back position as he did at Newcastle, produced a devilish cross just beyond the stretching Long, who could not quite crane his neck sufficiently to head home. 

Next to try his luck was Nathan Redmond. Tiptoeing his way between two defenders, he negotiated a shooting chance and sent an arrowing drive across Foster that needed a brilliant touch around the post from the ex-England stopper.

As far as first halves go, this was one of the most watchable Saints have been involved in for some time.

The visitors were gaining confidence all the time. Like Ward-Prowse on the other side, Ryan Bertrand surged forward from wing-back and thought he was barged over by Cathcart, but referee Mike Dean turned down appeals for a penalty.

The pace of Redmond and Long was causing Watford all sorts of problems. As the interval loomed, the winger crossed for the striker to head over, before they switched roles and Long played the ball square for his partner in crime.

Redmond looked certain to score as the ball ran across his body, but somehow Foster stretched to get the slightest touch to his left-footed shot and send the ball against the outside of the left upright.

WATFORD, ENGLAND - APRIL 23: Nathan Redmond(R) of Southampton is denied by Ben Foster of Watfordduring the Premier League match between Watford FC and Southampton FC at Vicarage Road on April 23, 2019 in Watford, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Foster gets the slightest touch to divert Redmond's shot against the post

The same lick of paint was on the receiving end again when Redmond fizzed in a fantastic low cross met by the sliding Bertrand, who could not quite wrap his foot around the ball to turn it home.

An already unusual evening took another bizarre turn without a ball being kicked, as half-time guest John Barnes tried – twice – to get the Watford fans singing along to the Elton John hit ‘Rocket Man’, visibly frustrated by the visiting supporters drowning out the majority with an extra-loud rendition of ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’. So in the end Barnes gave up and sang ‘World in Motion’ instead. 

Anyway, back to the action. Such was the ease with which Saints were getting in behind the hosts, head coach Javi Gracia responded by ditching his tried and trusted 4-4-2 formation in favour of a back three, as Kiko Femenía replaced Cathcart.

Watford would begin to apply more pressure, but by the hour mark the second half remained incident free – a far cry from the preceding 45 minutes.

Hasenhüttl followed up his first change midway through the second half, Sims for Armstrong, with his second on 73 minutes, as Oriol Romeu made way for Mario Lemina – Saints’ goalscorer at Newcastle.

But it was Long, whose earliest of early goals still separated the sides, who remained the biggest threat with his electric pace on the break.

It was his speed that led Christian Kabasele to bring him down inches outside the box with a challenge that injured the front man, forcing Hasenhüttl into his final substitution just nine minutes after his first, as Valery returned to push Ward-Prowse into midfield and Redmond as an emergency striker.

From the resulting free-kick, Ward-Prowse sent Foster sprawling to his right to keep him out at his near post as the game entered its final ten minutes.

Watford pushed but Gunn remained relatively stress free until Gray seized on a loose ball in the box to send a shot flying over the keeper’s head and in off the bar to rescue a share of the spoils.


Head to Head Stats

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Ben Foster (GK)
Daryl Janmaat
Christian Kabasele yellow card
Craig Cathcart
replace Kiko Femenía (45′)
Adam Masina yellow card
Abdoulaye Doucouré yellow card
Roberto Pereyra
Etienne Capoue (C) yellow card
Will Hughes
replace Isaac Success (77′)
Gerard Deulofeu yellow card
Andre Gray goal
Nathaniel Chalobah
Ken Sema
Kiko Femenía
Adrian Mariappa
Miguel Britos
Isaac Success
Heurelho Gomes


Angus Gunn (GK)
Jan Bednarek yellow card
Maya Yoshida
Jack Stephens
James Ward-Prowse
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (C)
Ryan Bertrand
Oriol Romeu yellow card
replace Mario Lemina (74′)
Stuart Armstrong
replace Josh Sims (67′)
Shane Long goal
replace Yan Valery (78′)
Nathan Redmond
Charlie Austin
Mario Lemina
Fraser Forster
Josh Sims
Yan Valery
Danny Ings
Kayne Ramsay
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