SOUTHAMPTON — In the rain and sun at St Mary’s, Southampton eased past Fulham as they continue to finish the season strong.
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Che Adams set Saints on their way against already-relegated Fulham, while the superb Nathan Tella then added a second (his first-ever goal) off the bench and set up fellow sub Theo Walcott for a third as Saints secured consecutive wins for the first time since December.
In-between that Fulham teenager Fabio Carvalho scored his first professional goal, but the Cottagers were outclassed by the Saints.
With their second-straight win Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side move on to 43 points for the season, while Fulham remain in 27.
Three things we learned Southampton – Fulham
1. Tella can be Saints’ next young star: He jumped off the bench to replace a disgruntled Danny Ings and within a few seconds he scored his first-ever goal. Tella, 21, has been very impressive whenever he has played for Saints but he couldn’t score his first goal. Now he has it, you get the sense it is lift-off. The former Arsenal academy product joined Saints a few years ago and has developed in their youth teams. After scoring, assisting and going close to another on Saturday, he looks ready to be the next Saints star to shine. Maybe he could replace Ings next season…
2. Carvalho a top talent: Speaking of young talents, Fulham look to have a real gem in Fabio Carvalho. The 18-year-old was bright and always positive on his first start. He took his goal really well and backed up the faith, and plentiful praise, Scott Parker has given him.
3. What could have been for both: Had Fulham been this attack-minded for most of this season, they would have been a lot higher up the table. Parker’s side looked dangerous when they went 2-0 up and threw caution to the wind, and we haven’t seen that enough from them. As for Saints, they were hit hard by injuries and prioritized the FA Cup and that cost them a lot of points in the middle of the season. Had Saints’ key man stayed fit, they could have be in the Europa League hunt. Both teams will be left with a feeling of ‘what if’ from this season.
Man of the Match: Jack Stephens – Brilliant display with several last-ditch tackles, and often got attacks started from the back. Couldn’t do much about Carvalho’s goal.
Saints started brightly but Fulham had the first real chance as Josh Onomah prodded just wide.
Stuart Armstrong, Takumi Minamino and Che Adams then combined to set up Redmond but his shot flew wide. Minamino was then played in but Alphonse Areola saved well initially and then with the rebound.
After a good spell of play from Fulham, Saints then took the lead. A free kick way out on the right by the corner flag was whipped in by Ward-Prowse and Adams flicked home from close range to put the hosts ahead.
Youngster Carvalho almost wriggled into the box as Fulham continued to look a threat on the break, while Ward-Prowse forced Areola into a fine stop after a trademark free kick and Danny Ings went close to chipping home.
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At the start of the second half Adams and Ings both went close from set piece situations as Ward-Prowse continued to cause problems.
Nathan Redmond then had a great chance when played through by Adams but Areola did well to deny him.
Moments after replacing Danny Ings, who had a quiet game, young striker Tella, 21, tapped home his first-ever goal. Kyle Walker-Peters crossed for Tella who slotted home and the entire Saints team were delighted the young forward was off the mark.
Jack Stephens made two fine last-ditch tackles, and Mohammed Salisu made one, to deny Fulham after promising breaks, as Fulham went for it late on.
Youngster Fabio Carvalaho, 18, scored on his first start to set up a lively finish, as the youngster hammered home at the near post.
Southampton then recovered to seal the win late on as the brilliant Tella cleverly set up the onrushing, and fellow sub Walcott, as he scored his third goal back in a Saints shirt.
Tella almost scored his second and Saints’ fourth late on but Areola denied him, as Southampton deservedly sealed all three points.