Zemmama puts end to Saints' title dreams

Middlesbrough 2 Southampton 1: Southampton slip up and give Mowbray's Boro a fighting chance of a place in the play-offs

the riverside stadium

It ought to have been the perfect day for Southampton, instead it turned into a right royal coronation. After seeing Brian McDermott's side slip up and bitter rivals Portsmouth relegated, a memorable three-hour spell could have been rounded off in style with the cessation of a seven-year Premier League exile.

Two out of three isn't bad. For much of a compelling contest, it appeared the trio of elements would come together for Nigel Adkins' side. But after taking the lead after 46 seconds, they were pegged back by spirited hosts, who kept their slim play-off hopes alive thanks to a stunning winner 13 minutes from time, midfielder Merouane Zemmama curling home a 25-yard free-kick after Jose Fonte had been harshly judged to have tugged back Southampton-born Lukas Jutkiewicz. The cheers from Royal Berkshire as Reading were confirmed as champions thanks to their point at home to Crystal Palace, could almost be heard on a rain-sodden Teesside.

For Southampton, the promotion party will have to wait at least until tomorrow night, when West Ham travel to Leicester City. Anything but victory for the London club will see the Saints marching back into the top flight. Should it go to the final day, the fixture computer has been kind to Nigel Adkins' side, who welcome the already relegated Coventry.

"We send our congratulations to Reading, but from our point of view promotion is still in our own hands," Adkins insisted. Should West Ham take matters to the final day, given their superior goal difference, a point at home to the doomed Sky Blues should be enough to seal back-to-back promotions for the south coast club. A win definitely would.

Insisting that he expected West Ham to win on Monday, Adkins added: "There was a chance there for us, but we must now make sure we win in front of 32,000 of our fans roaring us on this Saturday."

Billy Sharp gave Southampton the lead inside the first minute with a far post tap in from Rickie Lambert's square pass.

But despite enjoying long periods of possession, Southampton couldn't find the decisive second goal, leaving them open to a well-struck equaliser from Nicky Bailey.

In a no-holds barred second half, Zemmama completed the comeback with a perfectly placed set-piece to leave Tony Mowbray's side needing to win at Watford on Saturday and hope Cardiff slip up to see them sneak into sixth place.

Tony Mowbray insisted: "We showed our fighting qualities, and we deserve enormous credit. It helps when a side comes and attacks us like Southampton did. We've kept our season alive to the last 90 minutes."

Middlesbrough (4-4-2) Steele; McMahon, Hines, McManus, Hoyte (Bennett, 40); Haroun, Robson (Williams, 59), Bailey, Zemmama; Jutkiewicz, McDonald (Main, 59).

Southampton (4-4-2) Davis; Butterfield, Fonte, Hooiveld, Fox (Schneiderlin, 84); Chaplow (Do Prado, 62), Cork, Hammond, Lallana; Lambert, Sharp.

Referee Tony Bates.

Man of the match Bailey (Middlesbrough).

Match rating 7/10.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible