Southampton’s top four hopes dented by defeat but Ronald Koeman still upbeat

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Southampton’s players, their manager and their fans all looked stunned at the final whistle.

For the majority of their 2-1 defeat at Stoke City on Saturday, Saints dominated play and had the better chances. They took the lead early on through Morgan Schneiderlin and looked in total control until a freak goal pulled Stoke level and then Charlie Adam scored a late winner.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays

Speaking to the club website after the match, Southampton’s manager Ronald Koeman was a little shell-shocked at what he had witnessed.

“It’s painful to lose like this, but we have to accept it,” Koeman said. “If we keep playing like today, then I think we will finish in a high position. It’s difficult because everybody’s very disappointed when you feel yourself that you were the better team on the pitch. When you have more chances and you don’t get one point, then we are very disappointed. We played to win the game but we lost it. That’s difficult to understand.”

Saints squandered a perfect opportunity to close the gap on fourth-placed Manchester City to two points and with five games to go they could be as far as eight points off fourth if City beat West Ham United on Sunday.

Finishing fifth, sixth or seventh this season will still represent Saints’ best-ever finish in the Premier League. For over half of the season they threatened to upset the balance in the PL and have come close to seeing a new name finish in the top four.

In their defeat at Stoke they created superb chances but couldn’t kill off the game. That has happened numerous times this season as Koeman’s boys haven’t possessed a ruthless streak in the final third. With five games to go they have given it a great go but Saints’ top four hopes are hanging by a thread and are all but over.