SOUTHAMPTON — For the first 60 minutes Southampton’s players were being heckled and booed by their own fans.
30 minutes later they were given a standing ovation off the pitch after launching a heroic comeback to secure their first home win since April and beat relegation rivals Watford 2-1 in a pivotal clash at St Mary’s.
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Boy, did Southampton need this. They now have belief they can get out of the bottom three and salvage their season as they have four crucial games coming up against Norwich, Newcastle, West Ham and Aston Villa.
Speaking after the game Ralph Hasenhuttl puffed out his cheeks as he sat down in the press conference room. Relief was the key word.
“There is a tonne of weight falling off the shoulders, there were tonnes of weight here today, you could feel it from the first moment. We couldn’t move. It was completely different to last weekend,” Hasenhuttl told Sky Sports. “The subs had a good impact and gave us fresh energy. Then it was a completely different second half, an unbelievable turnaround for the table. Sofiane Boufal on one side and Moussa Djenepo on the other gave us good quality.”
Southampton’s players were relieved at the final whistle and local lad Danny Ings, who has now scored eight goals in his last nine games in all competitions, added that the way the atmosphere turned inspired the players.
“It’s a massive result. It has been a very tough week for everyone at the club. To go 1-0 down and then to comeback and win shows the character of the lads. The atmosphere was great in the end and we deserved the points,” Ings told Sky Sports.
Hasenhuttl was asked if the atmosphere early on at St Mary’s impacted the performance of his team, and he issued a rallying cry to his players.
“We didn’t show that we create chances. We need chances to lift them and when we had a small one they were immediately there. We have to create them and you cannot demand them supporting you if you don’t show them anything,” Hasenhuttl said. “You have to show them then you get something. In the second half we showed and they were immediately there. This is what lifts everybody. First we must look at ourselves and what we can do better and the rest comes by the side.”
Saints were a team transformed in the second half as Moussa Djenepo and Sofiane Boufal pushed on down the wings, Danny Ings was a menace in the middle and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg won the ball back time and time again as they pinned Watford back.
Hasenhuttl admitted the second half was how he wants Saints to play all the time as they enter a season-defining few weeks in their season.
“We wanted to play like this from the beginning, it was the same shape. The players didn’t play how we want them to play and like they can play and we conceded a goal in that moment. I have analyzed more than I wanted to,” Hasenhuttl said. “It is more important to have this win now, to have this first three points at home. Last two games from a results side were okay, now we have a big home game against Norwich where we have to do it again.”
Brave is a word Hasenhuttl has being using a lot lately and his Southampton players dug deep at a crucial period late in the game against Watford.
He knows this is only the start but if they continue to be brave, Saints’ belief that they will stay in the Premier League will continue to rise.
“We have chances to take points every weekend and we must be more brave like today and when we are we have our quality to score, and we have our quality to win games,” Hasenhuttl added.