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.
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.
“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: 6/10Reuse content