Saints secure vital first home win

By SFC Media Sat 30 Nov Saints v Watford
Photo by Matt Watson | Danny Ings
Sat 30 Nov 5.30PM
Premier League
Southampton
2
Watford
1
Ings [78'] Ward-Prowse [83']
Sarr [24']
Redmond (48')
Referee: Michael Oliver | Venue: St Mary's Stadium | Attendance: 26,929

Southampton staged a dramatic turnaround at St Mary’s as two late goals secured a first home victory of the season at Watford’s expense.

The visitors were on course to send Saints to the bottom of the Premier League table after Ismaïla Sarr’s first-half opener, which the Hornets held on to until the 78th minute.

By that point Saints’ pressure was really mounting, and Danny Ings brought the home crowd to its feet with a scrappy close-range leveller that transformed the mood inside the stadium.

It would be down to James Ward-Prowse to finish the job – just as he did the last time Saints came from behind to win, against Tottenham Hotspur in March – by curling an exquisite free-kick into the top corner seven minutes from time.

Still there was to be more drama, as Watford substitute Andre Gray volleyed inches wide deep into six minutes of added time, before Alex McCarthy repelled a miss-hit cross that was creeping in, but the points belonged to the hosts.

Ralph Hasenhüttl’s only change from the 2-2 draw at Arsenal – a game Saints had more than enough chances to win – was enforced by an injury to Stuart Armstrong.

In his place came Moussa Djenepo, making only his second St Mary’s start, as Hasenhüttl went with the 4-2-2-2 formation that proved so successful in German football, with Djenepo and Nathan Redmond supporting a front two of Ings and Michael Obafemi.

But it was the visitors who fashioned the first notable chance, as a stray pass from skipper Pierre-Emile Højbjerg went straight to Sarr, who had space to run into but could only find the grateful grasp of McCarthy.

Højbjerg instantly set about making amends, firing over from the edge of the box in a lively start to the action.

But in truth it was Watford who settled quicker. Saints endured a moment of panic when Ryan Bertrand took a swipe at a driven shot that nearly diverted the ball into his own net, though his blushes were spared by the offside flag.

Then McCarthy and Cédric got into a muddle, with the keeper passing straight into touch, as anxiety levels grew inside St Mary’s, before Sarr took full advantage of the increasing tension to open the scoring midway through the first half.

Saints fell behind to Sarr's 24th-minute opener on a tense evening at St Mary's

Latching on to a ball over the top, the club-record signing was too quick for Jack Stephens, and kept his head to register his first Premier League goal with a clinical finish high into the net.

Suddenly, Sarr was full of it. Peeling away to the far post, he connected sweetly on the volley from José Holebas’s deep free-kick, forcing McCarthy into a sharp low save with his feet.

Then the Senegalese international was thwarted by Saints’ last line of defence again, as McCarthy got a crucial touch on Gerard Deulofeu’s cross to deny the goalscorer a tap-in at the far post.

Six minutes before the break Saints produced their best passage of play to date, when Redmond waited for Bertrand to accelerate beyond him and fed his run, but the defender’s cutback was intercepted with Obafemi poised to pounce. 

From the second phase of the resulting corner, Redmond eyed up the top corner but sent his curling shot over the bar as goalkeeper Ben Foster remained untested in the visiting goal.

Saints were improving and an even slicker move followed; Ings picking out Obafemi from the left, who invited Redmond to join in and feed Cédric on the right, whose low cross was delicately flicked inches wide by the onrushing Ward-Prowse.

Despite struggling for the most part, the interval came at a bad time for Saints – just as Hasenhüttl’s team were enjoying their best spell.

When they struggled to find that same momentum early in the second half, the boss was quick to act, sacrificing Redmond and Obafemi for the trickery of Sofiane Boufal and the tireless persistence of Shane Long.

Long actually threatened to score with his very first touch, heading wide from a corner via a deflection, before the two substitutes combined to force a stunning save from Foster.

Boufal’s quick footwork bought him space to pick out the Irishman, who must have thought he had scored when his left-footed shot looked destined for the top corner, but his former West Brom teammate Foster somehow stretched high to his left to tip the ball on to the crossbar and back into play.

Ward-Prowse was Saints' hero, completing the comeback with a trademark free-kick

With Watford still penned in, Djenepo went to ground under a challenge from Étienne Capoue, but no penalty was awarded even after VAR was consulted.

Hasenhüttl played his last card 14 minutes from time, introducing Yan Valery for Cédric for more penetration down the right flank, before his team created two chances from that side.

First Ings helped a deep cross back across goal for Long, who looked certain to score only for Craig Cathcart to smuggle the ball to safety just in the nick of time.

Not to be denied, Saints came forward again. Djenepo beat his man and kept his head to pick out Ings, who rifled the ball into the roof of the net from point-blank range.

Suddenly fuelled with belief – it’s amazing what a bit of confidence can do – Saints went all out for the winner.

It would take only five minutes to find it. A lung-busting run from Højbjerg, deep into Watford territory, earned a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area, left of the D.

Who else would you want stepping up? Ward-Prowse duly delivered the goods, curling one to perfection just inside Foster’s right-hand post, prompting the whole team to celebrate together in an act of unity and defiance.

The visiting keeper threw himself forward as his side forced a series of late corners and the tension inside St Mary’s reached unbearable levels, not least when the rooted McCarthy watched Gray’s volley in slow motion, but Watford were finally beaten.

Today's Match Sponsor: Waltet
Southampton

Head to Head Stats

Watford
  • Possession (%)
    63
    37
  • Shots
    11
    6
  • Shots on target
    6
    3
  • Corners
    6
    7
  • Passes Complete
    431
    204

Southampton

1
Alex McCarthy (GK)
21
Ryan Bertrand
35
Jan Bednarek
2
Cédric Soares
Yan Valery (76′)
5
Jack Stephens
16
James Ward-Prowse
12
Moussa Djenepo
23
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (C)
22
Nathan Redmond
Sofiane Boufal (57′)
9
Danny Ings
20
Michael Obafemi
Shane Long (57′)
3
Maya Yoshida
43
Yan Valery
28
Angus Gunn
7
Shane Long
14
Oriol Romeu
19
Sofiane Boufal
10
Che Adams

Watford

26
Ben Foster (GK)
15
Craig Cathcart
21
Kiko Femenía
Dimitri Foulquier (82′)
6
Adrian Mariappa
25
José Holebas
11
Adam Masina
19
Will Hughes
Nathaniel Chalobah (74′)
16
Abdoulaye Doucouré
29
Etienne Capoue (C)
7
Gerard Deulofeu
Andre Gray (67′)
23
Ismaila Sarr
14
Nathaniel Chalobah
37
Roberto Pereyra
18
Andre Gray
1
Heurelho Gomes
9
Troy Deeney
36
Dimitri Foulquier
20
Domingos Quina
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