Will Smallbone

Aston Villa fuming after Saints defeat

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SOUTHAMPTON — Saints battered Aston Villa on Saturday and to make sure you have every angle covered for the marquee Premier League games, our new feature “In the Mixed Zone” will take you behind-the-scenes and into the tunnel areas to hear from the star players moments after their magic has decided games or drama has ensued.

[ MORE: In the Mixed Zone ] 

The idea is to set the scene of being inside the tunnel area in Old Trafford, by the dugouts at Stamford Bridge and in the swanky new players area in Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium as Premier League stars walk out of the dressing room and break down the game with media members around the world. We will tell you what they are saying and the kind of antics going on amid the hubbub of the mixed zone as players from both teams have their say on the 90-plus minutes of action we’ve just witnessed.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Here’s the scene from St Mary’s Stadium as Saints were relieved that they finally sealed the win in stoppage time, while Aston Villa were downbeat after another defeat and this time their manager Dean Smith was far from happy.


WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Southampton midfielder Will Smallbone, who turned 20 on Friday, made his Premier League debut and excelled in midfield with plenty of composed passes and he almost scored with a deflected shot which hit the post.

“Good celebration for my 20th birthday and then to get a start and a win today in the Premier League, yeah, it was good,” Smallbone said. “It was different. To play in the Premier League, it was a lot harder. I thought I handled it okay and did alright.”

Smallbone joins the likes of Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Luke Shaw in coming through their academy and being graduated to the first team.

“We’ve had quite a lot of players come through the ranks and you look up to them when you’re younger. To come through myself and hopefully do the best I can, it is very special.”

Smallbone is a special player and slotted in seamlessly to Saints’ midfield on his debut and sprayed the ball around nicely.

Dean Smith, Aston Villa’s manager, was absolutely fuming..


MIXEDZONEOLOGY

Jack Grealish was downbeat as he got onto the Aston Villa team bus and his mood reflected that of every Villa player.

What was most surprising was that Grealish got off the team bus and went away in a private taxi after the game instead of going back with the rest of the players and coaching staff. John Terry appeared to do the same.

For most away games that happens and players make their own way home or visit other places for promotional events etc.

But given Smith’s strong words about Villa’s display, it was surprising to see Grealish leave his teammates for the trip home. Grealish and Pepe Reina looked very downbeat and those two are Villa’s only hopes of staying in the Premier League.


IN AND AROUND

Michal Obafemi and Nathan Redmond were hanging around the mixed zone and the likes of Conor Hourihane and Alex McCarthy were on their cell phones loitering around.

Southampton’s players were all very happy as this win all but secures their Premier League status for another season. Villa’s team bus was a pretty miserable place as Dean Smith got on with a look of despair. Next stop: League Cup final against Man City.

Southampton outclass Aston Villa

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Southampton outclassed Aston Villa to win 2-0 at St Mary’s on Saturday.

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In-form Shane Long struck early and Stuart Armstrong sealed the win in the 94th minute as Villa never looked likely to draw level.

With the win Southampton move on to 34 points for the season and are in the race for European qualification. Villa are just one point above the drop zone.


3 things we learned

1. Saints almost safe: Ralph Hasenhuttl said he will start sorting out a new contract for himself and his players when they reach 36 points. They are now on 34 as they showed just enough class to get past Aston Villa. A clean sheet will delight Hasenhuttl as his team never really looked like conceding against a poor Villa outfit. Saints have played well in recent weeks without getting the points they deserved but on Saturday they dug deep to grab all three points. With a favorable run of games coming up, Saints are finally looking up the table.

2. Sky is the limit for Djenepo: He is one of the most exciting players to watch as the Mali international dribbles and wriggles his way towards goal. He could have scored a couple but set up Long’s goal and his potential is limitless. He is still just 21 years old and has a huge future in the game.

3. Reina, Grealish are Villa’s big hopes: Jack Grealish did his best to get Villa going, as he has done all season, but he had no real hope from his teammates as Villa were pretty wretched. Late on they chucked everything at Saints but even then they couldn’t break through. Pepe Reina made several fine stops from Southampton’s players at one end, even though his loose passing at the back put them under severe pressure. Villa head to Wembley next weekend to play in the League Cup final against Man City and that is a free-hit. Their main aim is to stay in the Premier League and they are now just one point off the bottom three.

Man of the Match: Stuart Armstrong – He finished off his lung-bursting run in the 94th minute to slot home Saints’ second and the Scotsman was tireless in linking together midfield and attack. Long and Ings set the tempo and Armstrong and Djenepo back them up so well.


Southampton almost took the lead early on as Will Smallbone, making his Premier League debut, saw his shot deflect onto the post and out.

The hosts did take the lead soon after as great work from Moussa Djenepo down the left saw him cross for Long who bundled home the ball. VAR checked the goal for handball but it stood.

Saints continued to dominate as Ryan Bertrand‘s header set up Ings who bundled his way through on goal but Pepe Reina produced a top save to deny him, then Djenepo fired over from Long’s cross.

Villa did improve a little as half time approached with Mbwana Samatta scoring from an offside position and Grealish trying to get on the ball as much as he could.

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Jack Stephens flicked just over from a superb Ryan Bertrand free kick and then Stuart Armstrong rounded Reina but sent his shot into the side-netting.

Reina denied Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg‘s volley at one end while at the other Samatta’s deflected shot looped just over.

Substitute Che Adams fired just wide late on as Southampton were a threat on the break as Villa poured forward in search of an equalizer.

A frantic finish saw Adams have a shot cleared off the line at one end then Villa flashed a shot wide at the other. Reina then came up for a late corner kick and Saints cleared, leading to a wonderful ball for Adams who set up Armstrong to slot home and send St Mary’s wild.

Norwich rolls, Watford stunned, Aston Villa falls in FA Cup

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Three more Premier League sides booked a place in the FA Cup fourth round, but one was left on the outside looking in as Saturday’s heavy slate of magic continued along.

[ MORE: Early FA Cup slate recap ]

18-year-old Adam Idah picked up a hat-trick to as Norwich City used a storming first half to beat Preston North End 4-2. Idah was on target less than 90 seconds into the match as Marco Stiepermann delivered a fabulous through-ball on the break and Idah split two defenders expertly and finished from outside the box. Onel Hernandez hit for Norwich’s second in the 28th minute before Idah grabbed his second of the game via a deep 40-yard effort with the goalkeeper out to secure a 3-0 halftime lead. Preston got one back after the break through Billy Bodin, but Idah struck from the spot past the hour mark to bag his big moment.

Watford also appeared on its way having taken a 3-0 lead by halftime, but was left red-faced after coughing that all up in a 3-3 draw with League One side Tranmere Rovers. 20-year-old Tom Dele-Bashiru gave Watford the lead inside the opening 15 minutes, while Nathaniel Chalobah and Roberto Pereyra tacked on goals before halftime in what was a comfortable first 45 minutes. However, in good form and with a big lead, Watford absolutely collapsed. Connor Jennings was first to pull a goal back for Tranmere as he headed home on a corner, while another set-piece provided Tranmere’s second off the head of Emmanuel Monthe. The equalizer came from the spot after VAR gave a penalty on Mason Barrett just inside the box, and Paul Mullin slotted home the spot-kick. Pereyra was then sent off late harshly for a somewhat innocuous trip on Kieron Morris.

Fulham used a pair of absolute beauties to shock Premier League side Aston Villa 2-1 at Craven Cottage. Anthony Knockaert was the first to strike, blasting a left-footed effort from outside the top of the box to find the top-left corner and earn a 1-0 lead. Anwar El-Ghazi was on hand at the far post to tap in a deserved equalizer for Villa past the hour mark, but Harry Arter produced a stunning winner from acres out that curled away from Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland and buried into the same corner as Knockaert’s.

Southampton struggled through the first 45 minutes with Huddersfield Town’s stout defense, but they broke through just after halftime and advanced on Will Smallbone‘s debut goal that led to a provided a 2-0 win. Shane Long headed it from the byline back to the penalty spot where Smallbone was all alone, and the 19-year-old took his time before calmly firing a half-volley into the back of the net. 19-year-old Jake Vokins was on hand to put the game away with three minutes to go.

Brighton & Hove Albion was dumped out of the competition after Adam Reach’s 65th minute goal gave Sheffield Wednesday a 1-0 victory at The Amex.

Non-league side Hartlepool United’s trek through the FA Cup came to an end despite an early lead, falling 4-1 to Oxford United. Mark Kitching gave Hartlepool the lead inside the opening 10 minutes, but a quickfire pair from Robert Hall and Shandon Baptiste after halftime saw Oxford survive and advance before tacking on another two late for good measure.

Reading and Blackpool will require a replay after a 2-2 draw that saw Blackpool twice throw away a goal advantage. Cardiff City completed a two-goal comeback at home to force a replay with Carlisle United.