It was back to normal rations for Southampton fans after last week’s feast. While neighbours Bournemouth followed their lead by hitting eight at Birmingham Saints had to settle for one.
They were happy though, Ronald Koeman’s team being given a standing ovation after seeing off disappointing Stoke to move second in the table.
The solitary goal was scored by the right man, too. Saido Mane struck the eighth against Sunderland last week, or at least he thought he had. The Premier League’s dubious goals committee chalked it off, ruling it to be an own goal by Patrick van Anholt. Never mind, 33 minutes into this match Mane (pictured) reacted first when Graziano Pelle’s shot rebounded off the woodwork to drive in what can now, definitively, be called his first goal for Saints.
After five goals in his last three home games Pelle this time failed to score, but he should have done. As well as striking the post he hit the bar soon after the break, despite Marc Wilson grappling him at the time, then he somehow put a free header wide from Dusan Tadic’s 76th-minute cross.
There were other chances, especially in the first half. Steve Davis shot just wide after four minutes, Asmir Begovic denied Tadic at the near post after 28 minutes, Morgan Schneiderlin struck the bar a minute later. Stoke had barely crossed the halfway line at that point, Victor Moses wriggling into the box on their only break but, after resisting the urge to go down under challenge, shooting weakly.
Then Charlie Adam fouled Tadic. Saints briefly played on but no advantage accrued so Jon Moss called the play back; it was good refereeing, something done far too infrequently.
Tadic chipped the free-kick forward, the ball fell to Pelle, his shot hit the post and Mane thumped it in.
“He wasn’t upset [about the goal being chalked off],” said Koeman, “his reaction was ‘OK’, but maybe that was the reason for him to come to the bench [after scoring] and say ‘this one, yes, they will not take it away’.”
Koeman added: “The first half was one of our best halves of the season, better than last week, but we didn’t kill the game so it became difficult. Maybe it is nicer to win like this, the lads showed great character.”
“We paid them too much respect in the first half,” said Stoke manager Mark Hughes, “which was quite understandable given their exploits last week. In the second half we were the better side but we never created clear chances.”
The closest they came was late on when Phil Bardsley’s deep cross just eluded Mame Biram Diouf at the far post. A draw, however, would have been grossly undeserved.
Southampton (4-3-3): Forster; Clyne, Fonte, Alderweireld, Bertrand; Cork (Wanyana, 62), Davis (Munisa, 89), Schneiderlin; Tadic, Pelle, Mane.
Stoke City (4-2-3-1): Begovic; Bardsley, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters; Cameron, Adam (Diouf, 52); Walters (Arnautovic, 69), Nzonzi, Moses (Assaidi, 79); Crouch.
Referee: J Moss
Man of the match: Tadic (Southampton)
Match rating: 5/10Reuse content