Sofiane Boufal's sensational individual goal sees Southampton extend West Brom's winless slump

Southampton 1 West Brom 0: The second-half substitute lit up this game with a fine solo goal that saw him evade several challenges on a winding run before shooting past Ben Foster

Nick Szczepanik
St Mary's Stadium
Saturday 21 October 2017 19:28
Boufal's wonder goal proved to be the difference
Boufal's wonder goal proved to be the difference

There will be no need for an October goal of the month competition. Sofiane Boufal, the Southampton substitute, decided the outcome after 85 minutes of an otherwise forgettable match with a 70-yard run from just outside his own penalty area and a scoring shot from the edge of West Bromwich Albion's.

Boufal, once Saints' record signing, has been largely a bit-part player since joining from Lille for £16 milllion in August 2016, occasionally impressing before returning to the bench that has been his natural habitat in English football. This was only his second league goal for the club - but what a goal.

It was a far better than the game deserved, but was due reward for Southampton's greater ambition. West Bromwich Albion routinely pulled everyone bar Salomon Rondon back and challenged Southampton to find a way past, round or through them. Until Boufal's wonder strike, it seemed they would fail to do so.

They started brightly and a clever pass from Dusan Tadic forced an early corner, headed over the bar by central defender Maya Yoshida. But too soon any subtlety was replaced by mere energy and both sides closed one another down so diligently that the only available space was far from either goal. Mario Lemina looked in vain 35 yards out for a teammate in space so chanced his arm and watched his shot fly harmlessly over the bar.

Sometimes the defending overstepped the mark and after 17 minutes Southampton were awarded a free kick 25 yards out and nearly scored. Ryan Bertrand took it, the ball flicking the head of Jonny Evans in the defensive wall and looping past goalkeeper Ben Foster but off the top of the post to safety.

Bertrand then made a clever run behind the Albion defence and pulled the ball back for Tadic, but his shot was straight at Foster and easy for the goalkeeper. Despite their lack of any sort of cutting edge, Saints were doing most of the attacking and the visitors' normally efficient rearguard was rattled.

West Brom showed precious little intent to get forward

A corner kick from the left appeared to brush the arm of Salomon Rondon and as Virgil Van Dijk appealed loudly for a penalty, defenders stood still while play continued. Fortunately for them, Oriol Romeu, turning as rapidly as a tanker in the Solent, stabbed his shot wide.

Next it was the turn of Tadic to survive a penalty claim for handling as a cross arced into the Saints penalty area through the wind and rain. But Saints broke away and Manolo Gabbiadini launched a run down the left, leaving Nacer Chadli trailing in his wake. Looking up, he spied Shane Long making ground in the centre and played an inch-perfect pass into his path.

The Northam End rose to salute a goal as Long made contact but somehow, the Ireland forward got his footwork all wrong and managed to flick the ball the wrong side of the post.He has now failed to score in 26 consecutive games for club and country.

Boufal is congratulated after his fine solo goal

Yoshida decided his forwards needed finishing lessons but although he went close twice, first forcing a save from Foster with a header from a Steve Davis corner and then sending an overhead kick a yard wide, he was unable to provide them. Gabbiadini did well to get above Craig Dawson to connect with a cross by Cedric, but his header dropped onto the roof of the net.

Even former Saints were gripped by the malaise. A first-time pass by Grzegorz Krychowiak sent Jay Rodriguez clear but he pulled his shot well wide.ut there could have been a goal at each end with 20 minutes to go. Tadic, looking suspiciously offside, found himself clear on the right but lifted his shot into the chest of Foster, tumbling unconvincingly in search of a penalty as the goalkeeper scrambled after the loose ball. Play switched tio the other end and Cadli sent in a shot that looked to be dropping under the crossbar but Fraser Forster finger-tipped it over.

Finally, four minutes after taking the field, Boufal collected the ball deep in his own half and advanced with purpose. It soon became clear that he had only one thing on his mind and he swept past at least four opponents befor finishing coolly with a low shot placed wide of Foster's left hand.

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