SOUTHAMPTON — The Saints are alive.
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Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s men rallied from 1-0 down to beat Watford 2-1 at St Mary’s on Saturday, as Southampton secured their first home win since April in dramatic fashion.
After Ismaila Sarr gave Watford a first half lead, Saints fought back as Danny Ings equalized (although replays show there was a handball in the build up to it) and James Ward-Prowse scored a late winner.
The victory moves Saints on to 12 points for the season, two points off safety. Watford sit bottom of the table on eight points, six points from safety.
3 things we learned
1. Southampton rally for Hasenhuttl: This was a gutsy comeback win. Southampton were being booed by some of their home fans for the first 60 minutes for being too negative and they hadn’t won at home since April. St Mary’s has become a very tough place to play for them. But they stuck to their plan, high pressed Watford and got the win for Hasenhuttl. They deserved it for the second half display, even if there were a few nerves late on, and they now face Norwich, Newcastle, West Ham and Villa in their next four games. Saints’ season has lift off.
2. Boufal, Djenepo the difference: Their talented wingers from Morocco and Mali gave Watford a torrid time and dragged them back into the game. Boufal’s arrival off the bench was a game-changer and Djenepo’s skill to set up Ings was sublime. Saints are better when they go at teams and if these two stay fit, they hold the key to Saints pushing into midtable.
3. Negative Watford cut adrift: Saints were there for the taking in the first half and Watford should have been 3-0 up. But they weren’t clinical and fell apart in the second half. Quique Sanchez Flores was too negative with his tactics and he is likely to be fired as they are now six points off safety. Next up: in-form Leicester, Palace, Liverpool, plus a clash with Man United. The Hornets look doomed.
Man of the Match: Sofiane Boufal – He made such a huge difference after coming off the bench and the only reason he didn’t start this game was because he stubbed his toe in his kitchen this week. Seriously. The Moroccan winger is loved at St Mary’s after his season away on loan and his flair lit up this game.
Watford had the first big chance of the game as Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg gave the ball away but Ismaila Sarr shot right at Alex McCarthy. At the other end Hojbjerg fired just over as Saints tried to get on the front foot.
Nathan Redmond fired a shot in on goal which Ben Foster saved easily, as the game turned into a tight, tense encounter.
Watford then took the lead as one ball over the top caught Saints out, Sarr raced onto it and fired over McCarthy and in.
The Hornets were buoyed by that opening goal as Sarr hammered in a volley on goal which McCarthy saved and moments later Gerard Deulofeu crossed but Sarr couldn’t get on the end of it.
Saints settled down as the first half played out as James Ward-Prowse’s clever flick almost snuck in at the back post.
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At the start of the second half Sarr then dribbled clear and sent an effort just over the crossbar as Watford looked dangerous on the break.
Substitutes Shane Long and Sofiane Boufal made a big difference when they came on as Southampton forced the issue in the second half. Danny Ings pressed Ben Foster into a horrible situation as the Watford goalkeeper won a free kick with Ings adamant he deserved a penalty kick as the home side pushed to get back on level terms.
Boufal surged into the box and pulled it back for Long who scuffed his shot towards the goal but Foster, at full strength, heroically tipped the ball onto the crossbar. Ings then set up Long who looked to have scored but Craig Cathcart somehow cleared the ball off the line.
Saints eventually got their deserved equalizer as Djenepo danced away from his marker, pulled the ball back and Ings bundled it home. Replays showed Djenepo handled the ball and it should have been chalked off by VAR, which missed the angle shown on TV.
Saints played on and soon the winner arrived.
Ward-Prowse then whipped home a fine free kick at the near post to make it 2-1, as Foster pushed the ball into his own net and will feel he should have done better.
Late on Watford threw everything at Southampton as Andre Gray fired wide and McCarthy tipped a cross over the bar as Saints held on.