Southampton vs Hull match report: Graziano Pelle scores first goal since before Christmas to leave Tigers in deep trouble at the bottom

Southampton 2 Hull City 0

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The Independent Football

Graziano Pelle finally ended his barren run of 14 Premier League games without a goal as Southampton move fifth in the table, taking a significant step forward in their bid to secure Europa League football.

Without a League goal since December, Pelle’s 81st-minute effort added to the feeling of relief around St Mary’s after Ronald Koeman’s side laboured to a win that ensured they took full advantage of Tottenham Hotspur’s stumble at home to Aston Villa.

Facing a Hull City side facing an increasingly desperate fight to avoid dropping into the bottom three, Koeman’s side found their feet only when James Ward-Prowse converted from the penalty spot after Alex Bruce had fouled Shane Long. But if the goal by Pelle capped a positive afternoon for Koeman and his players, his late contribution only added to the feeling of injustice felt by Steve Bruce, the Hull manager.

James Ward-Prowse opened the scoring with a first-half penalty

Bruce believed the striker was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card after catching Bruce in the face with his forearm in the 33rd minute. As far as Bruce senior was concerned, the offence merited a red card and the decision to allow the forward to stay on the pitch summed up his side’s fortunes at the moment.

Hull currently sit fourth bottom with a daunting run-in to come, and the manager said: “We’re incensed. When looked at the video Alex got a horribly broken nose. Look at Pelle’s forearm. The referee gave a yellow. I had a conversation with the referee who said he’s seen a hand in the air. If he’s seen a forearm smash in Alex’s face you do wonder.”

Had Southampton been reduced to ten men, Hull’s first-half efforts may have produced something more than a succession of near misses and half-chances. As it was, they ran out of ideas and confidence after Ward-Prowse put the home side ahead.

Steve Bruce's team are now just two points above relegation and have won just 3 of their 13 games since New Year's Day

“We were looking nervous, I was disappointed about that and unhappy at half-time,” said Koeman, who had been forced to intervene when Sadio Mané attempted to take the penalty ahead of Ward-Prowse. “If you fight for relegation you have to be nervous but why be nervous if you fight for something special. It wasn’t good enough in the first half. But I am pleased in the end.  We’re closer to our target for the end of season.”

Southampton: (4-2-3-1) K Davis; Alderweireld, Fonte, Yoshida, Bertrand;  Wanyama (Ward-Prowse 46), Schneiderlin; Long (Elia 74), S Davis, Mané (Tadic 61); Pelle.

Hull City: (4-4-2) Harper; Chester (Diame 64), Dawson, Bruce, McShane; Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone (Sagbo 74), Quinn;  Aluko (Hernandez 84), N’Doye.

Referee: Kevin Friend

Man of the match: Schneiderlin (Southampton)

Match rating: 6/10