Southampton 2-0 Fulham: Dominant display sends Saints third (video)

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SOUTHAMPTON — It was utter domination from start to finish from Southampton against Fulham on Saturday, as the home side won 2-0 thanks to a rampant display at St. Mary’s Stadium.

Rickie Lambert headed Saints in front after 20 minutes, before Jay Rodriguez doubled their lead in the 42nd minute. The home side created numerous chances in the second half after out-shooting Fulham 20-2 in an extremely one-sided affair, but the two first half strikes did the damage.

Fulham simply couldn’t handle the home sides high-pressure approach as Southampton continued their best start to a top-flight season since 1983-84, with a fifth win from their opening nine games. Saints’ also kept their superb defensive record going with a sixth clean sheet in nine games. They have conceded just three times this season, the best record in the Premier League.

The Saints now sit third and are just four points behind league-leaders Arsenal, while Fulham stay in 15th.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men made a bright start as Adam Lallana picked up the ball in the box following a lapse pass from Philippe Senderos and drilled a ball across goal that Marteen Stekelenburg pushed out and Morgan Schneiderlin’s follow up shot was cleared off the line.

Predictably Saints pressed high, as they aimed to force the issue early on at St. Mary’s and the relentless juggernaut of red shirts just keep coming as the Cottagers.

source: AP
Rickie Lambert heads home Saints’ opener, the England internationals third PL goal this season.

In the 17th minute Kenyan international Victor Wanyama smashed a low drive past the far post, as Saints continued to push forward. And soon Southampton were rewarded for their bright start as Lambert grabbed the opener on the 20 minute mark.

(MORE: Mauricio Pochettino hails Southampton, believes “the sky is the limit”)

18-year-old James Ward-Prowse whipped in a great corner that was flicked on at the near post by Jay Rodriguez and Lambert lost his man at the back post to nod home his third Premier League goal of the season.

The Saints were rampant after the opening goal, as Jay Rodriguez took on three Fulham players before forcing Stekelenburg into a good low stop for another Saints corner.

As for Fulham, they hardly threatened as Darren Bent and Dimitar Berbatov cut frustrated figures up top. Before half time there was a brief lull in the game.

In the 35th minute Rickie Lambert cut in from the left after Schneiderlin won the ball well, and smashed a low shot off the post as he he almost grabbed his and Southampton’s second.

Lambert again went close with a back post header in the 38th minute, as Luke Shaw’s follow up shot was deflected into the side-netting for a corner. The relentless pressure continued.

(MORE: Martin Jol – We could have gone away with a hammering today)

And in the 42nd minute the Saints went 2-0 up as captain Lallana curled in a perfect ball to the back post and found Lambert who nodded across goal for Rodriguez to head home his second PL goal of the year. It was Southampton’s 13th effort of the first half, as they went in ahead at the break.

After the interval Saints continued to carve out chances as Wanyama rose highest following Ward-Prowse’s cross, but headed his effort wide.

source: AP
Saints’ domination sees them continue their rise up the Premier League.

After 59 minutes intricate play from Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne and Lambert saw the latter’s cross cleared away by Steve Sidwell as the Saints pressed for a third. Fulham were bamboozled by Saints’ movement and the Saints kept the ball for large swathes of the second period as ‘ole’s’ rung around St. Mary’s. Fulham should have broken through but Dimitar Berbatov couldn’t control a clever reserve pass, and as the Bulgarian striker looked to the heavens it summed up Fulham’s nightmare evening on the South Coast.

And the entire stadium rose to it’s feet to applaud Rodriguez in the 67th minute, as the Englishman sent a spectacular scissor-kick just wide of the near post after Ward-Prowse’s cross found him on the edge of the box. Fulham’s midfield were chasing shadows as Sidwell and Scott Parker couldn’t get close to the impressive Schneiderlin, Wanyama, Ward-Prowse and Rodriguez.

A flurry of late substitutions saw Saints close things out, with yet another three points and another impressive display under their belt.

LINEUPS

Southampton: Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw, Wanyama, Schneiderlin, Ward-Prowse (Cork, 90), Lallana, Rodriguez (Do Prado, 78), Lambert.

Fulham: Stekelenburg; Riether (Hughes, 46), Senderos, Amorebieta, Richardson; Ruiz (Kacaniklic, 80), Sidwell, Parker, Kasami; Berbatov; Bent (Rodallega, 74)

Reports: Barcelona holding talks with Verratti’s agent

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Barcelona has their eyes set on a new Andres Iniesta.

Sure, projecting anyone to meet Ballon d’Or finalist standards is silly, but news that Barca has had multiple meetings with Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti does inspire comparison hunting.

[ MORE: Klopp explains Lovren extension ]

An influential and creative central midfielder, the 24-year-old Verratti is 8.5 years younger than Iniesta and wowed Barca in the first leg of PSG’s ill-fated UEFA Champions League tie with the Catalans.

Mundo Deportivo, amongst others, reports that Verratti feels life at PSG has gotten stale and that Barca is one of the few clubs that represents a significant jump up in class. He’s also been linked with Real Madrid and Manchester United in the past few transfer windows.

Verratti has a contract through 2020-21, so any purchase will not be cheap considering PSG’s desire to continue growing its status as a UCL contender. The Italian is 21 times capped by the Azzurri.

Klopp talks new Lovren deal, Top Four worries, Watford

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Liverpool announced a new contract for Dejan Lovren on Friday, complete with the requisite “I love my club” comments from the defender.

Then Jurgen Klopp got his hands on a microphone.

The outspoken manager explained that re-signing Lovren to a new “long-term” deal ensures that the Croatian spends the best years of his career with the Reds.

[ MORE: Top PL Storylines ]

He also spoke plainly about Lovren’s perceived struggles and successes since arriving at Anfield from Southampton in 2014.

From The Liverpool Echo:

“If Dejan played for another club you would want to sign him – and pay a lot of money. He is 27, the best time is still to come.”

“If you’d asked fans after the Dortmund game they would said give him a 20-year contract. After the Palace game fans would have said ‘can we find another team who will have him?’ Truth is somewhere in between.”

Turning to Monday’s trip to Watford, Klopp isn’t concerned about the chance that his Reds will open the day outside the Top Four if Man City and Manchester United both win at the weekend.

He also says the Reds could have Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge at Vicarge Road, though Jordan Henderson remains out.

Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Bournemouth

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  • Sunderland won 2-1 on Nov. 5
  • Fourth meeting since 1990
  • Sunderland leads all-time 5W-3D-1L

Sunderland looks to keep its faint hopes of Premier League safety alive by managing a season sweep of Bournemouth when the two sides meet at the Stadium of Light on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Black Cats are a mess, having lost to Tees-Wear Derby rivals Middlesbrough on Wednesday and living 12 points back of 17th place Swansea City.

Bournemouth battered Middlesbrough 4-0 last weekend to move seven points clear of the drop zone, and can finish the day in the top half with a win up north.

What they’re saying

Sunderland boss David Moyes on calls for him to quit“I’m here, I’m the manager, you take it on the chin. … I’m a football supporter, I know what it’s like. You don’t like seeing your team lose. There is nobody who wants to win more than me. I am used to winning, I’m not used to losing and I don’t want to get used to it either.”

Bournemouth captain Simon Francis on Sunderland’s woes“It just show how things can happen when clubs are not run properly. If we do lose Sunderland from the Premier League it will be a real shame. They are an enormous club and playing at grounds like theirs is the pinnacle of anyone’s career.”

 

Prediction

The Black Cats haven’t quit, but manage two fewer points than they need, all but heading for the Championship after a 2-2 draw.

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. Hull City

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  • Hull won 2-1 on Nov. 6
  • Tigers two points clear of drop zone
  • Saints lead all-time 23W-20D-15L

After back-to-back losses to Man City and Chelsea, Saints meet a different kind of desperation when Hull City arrives at St. Mary’s (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

With a win, Hull can move five points clear of the final relegation spot and heap pressure on Swansea City, who plays Sunday. With a loss, Marco Silva’s men open the 17th place door for Swans.

[ MORE: JPW on Romeu the Destroyer ]

Since the start of the 2011-12 season in the Championship, Southampton has won six of seven matches against Hull. That seventh, however, was the match at the KCOM Stadium earlier this season, one that saw now-West Ham man Robert Snodgrass spur a Tigers comeback.

Saints open the day four points back of eighth place West Brom, and also hold a match-in-hand on the Baggies.

What they’re saying

Saints boss Claude Puel on slump busting“After two losses it’s important to move forward now and take points on Saturday in front of our own fans. We have to improve in the right areas and find a good balance of play, but also a good clinical edge in both penalty areas.”

Marco Silva on Hull’s away troubles““We have conceded goals on the counter-attack away from home in games when the result has been looking good for us – we cannot make it possible for our opponents to do this to us. The second goal we conceded at Stoke is an example of this – conceded at a time when we were in control of the game. Details like this are making the difference and these are things we must look to change. This is clear to me and I pass this on to my players.”

Prediction

Saints have more quality than Hull, but may not have as much fire in the belly. Still, home field means a lot here and Southampton should reverse the score line from November’s tilt. 2-1, with Manolo Gabbiadini and Dusan Tadic leading the way.