The newly promoted Southampton went marching into the Championship with an emphatic victory over a feeble Leeds United, who never threatened to recover from conceding two goals in the opening 25 minutes.
Seventh last season and therefore just missing out on the play-offs, Simon Grayson's side have lost as many players as they have signed, and the bookmakers' disinclination to list them among the favourites for a return to the Premier League after seven years looks understandable.
Southampton have also fallen from grace in recent years and while it would be premature to predict their imminent return to the highest level, another exciting season could be in prospect. This seventh successive victory established a new club record and they have now won 20 of their last 25 home games. "It was a long way from a perfect performance but we've scored three good goals, which kick-starts our season," said their impressive young manager Nigel Adkins.
Leeds badly missed the injured forwards Luciano Becchio and Davide Somma. Max Gradel down the left produced an occasional flourish but Ross McCormack, playing through the centre, had little change out of the home defence. Adkins had talked about the momentum gained from promotion and it was maintained with a goal in the 10th minute. The captain Dean Hammond moved forward after picking up Guly do Prado's pass some 35 yards out and by the time Andy O'Brien contemplated closing him down, a left-footed shot was fizzing low into the corner of Andy Lonergan's net.
O'Brien did not come out well of the second goal either, allowing Adam Lallana to take Ricky Lambert's pass and turn inside him before curling a precise shot low into the same bottom corner. Lonergan, signed from Preston to replace Kasper Schmeichel, must have soon realised why Leeds conceded 70 goals last season to handicap their promotion push. Had it not been for his block at close range as Lallana took another neat pass and homed in on him, his new team would have gone three-down.
They did so anyway seven minutes into the second half, when the former Irish international David Connolly picked up a throw-in, took a reverse pass from Lambert and sent it calmly past the goalkeeper. It was a position Leeds found themselves in six years ago at St Mary's with 20 minutes to play before somehow winning 4-3. Yesterday such a transformation seemed even more unlikely. Billy Paynter, substituting for the over-aggressive Michael Brown, missed a good chance and in added time Gradel converted a penalty for handball that should never have been awarded. At the other end Richard Chaplow was denied when Lonergan turned his drive on to a post.Reuse content