Southampton relieved the pressure on boss Ralph Hasenhuttl with their first win in six games against south-coast rivals Bournemouth, who lost for the first time under interim manager Gary O’Neil.
It is hard to remember a time when pressure was not on Hasenhuttl, who has been in charge of the Saints since December 2018, but his side seem to grind out results when required and this was another example of that.
Che Adams’ first-half glancing header, after a left-wing cross from full-back Romain Perraud, was their first away goal in four games and ultimately proved enough as the Saints won for the first time since 30 August.
Perhaps more importantly, and certainly more encouragingly for the remainder of the season, they kept their first clean sheet in 17 games, dating back to 16 April last season.
They invited pressure from Bournemouth after the goal, but the hosts, who were unbeaten in six games under the guidance of O’Neil, failed to really test Republic of Ireland international Gavin Bazunu in the Saints’ goal.
Hasenhuttl told BBC Match of the Day: “I am a proud man. I am proud for the boys for the effort they put in and this time we were absolutely ready for this win and the clean sheet.
“I think we deserved it today because we did a very good job.
“All the things that we tried worked, from the set-up, to the gameplan, to the subs. Everything was perfect.”
The result lifts Southampton to 14th, two points clear of the relegation zone, while Bournemouth sit 11th.
Caleta-Car impresses but both sides lack quality in final third
Hasenhuttl has spent most of the season among the bookmakers’ favourites to be sacked – he sat second below Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard before kick-off – but on this evidence his players are still playing for him.
They were well organised at the back, with Croatia international Duje Caleta-Car impressing on his second start since joining from Marseille this summer.
Hasenhuttl spoke about Caleta-Car’s leadership being integral in his pre-match interview and that was evident with the 26-year-old showing composure throughout, alongside making a crucial block to deny Philip Billing in the second half.
Going forward the Saints had energy with Adams and Adam Armstrong, but they often lacked quality, with Joe Aribo’s toe-poked effort, saved by the outstretched feet of Neto, the closest they came to a second goal.
That chance was set up by the impressive Kyle Walker-Peters at right-back, but he went off injured in the second period, which will put a dampener on three important points.
“In the end it’s a win for the whole group,” Hasenhuttl added.
“We know that we have to fight as a group together after an intense transfer window in the summer and there are some phases that you are going through as a club and a team.
“We speak very often about the patience we need to have for them.
“It’s not always that you get the patience in this business, especially when you are a little bit long working in a club like I do.”
O’Neil has done a remarkable job for Bournemouth since taking over the reins from Scott Parker, winning two games and drawing four, and you could see the confidence in his side as they tried to match their best unbeaten run in the top flight.
But they too showed a lack of quality in the final third, with Billing’s drive from 22 yards the only time they really called Bazunu into action.
They nearly got their reward for their pressure in stoppage time when Bazunu dropped a corner and Lewis Cook turned towards goal but Mohammed Salisu was there to hack off the line for Southampton.
This game will be one Bournemouth targeted points from, especially with tough games against West Ham and Tottenham next on the agenda, but a four-point gap to the bottom three at this stage represents a decent start on their return to the top flight.
- 13Murara Neto
- 15A Smith
- 6MephamBooked at 43mins
- 25SenesiSubstituted forRothwellat 77′minutes
- 4L Cook
- 2FredericksSubstituted forDembéléat 83′minutes
- 10ChristieSubstituted forStanislasat 62′minutes
- 29BillingSubstituted forMooreat 83′minutes
- 2Walker-PetersSubstituted forS Armstrongat 66′minutesBooked at 90mins
- 15PerraudBooked at 15minsSubstituted forLarios Lópezat 88′minutes
- 3Maitland-NilesBooked at 43minsSubstituted forDialloat 88′minutes
- 7AriboSubstituted forLyancoat 64′minutes
- 9A ArmstrongSubstituted forDjenepoat 88′minutes
- 17S Armstrong
- 28Larios López
- John Brooks
Match ends, Bournemouth 0, Southampton 1.
Second Half ends, Bournemouth 0, Southampton 1.
Stuart Armstrong (Southampton) is shown the yellow card.
Attempt saved. Moussa Djenepo (Southampton) left footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Foul by Adam Smith (Bournemouth).
Stuart Armstrong (Southampton) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Corner, Bournemouth. Conceded by Gavin Bazunu.
Attempt saved. Marcus Tavernier (Bournemouth) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Junior Stanislas.
Attempt blocked. Lyanco (Southampton) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by James Ward-Prowse with a cross.
Corner, Southampton. Conceded by Adam Smith.
Substitution, Southampton. Moussa Djenepo replaces Adam Armstrong.
Substitution, Southampton. Ibrahima Diallo replaces Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
Substitution, Southampton. Juan Larios replaces Romain Perraud.
Foul by Joe Rothwell (Bournemouth).
Adam Armstrong (Southampton) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Substitution, Bournemouth. Siriki Dembélé replaces Ryan Fredericks.
Substitution, Bournemouth. Kieffer Moore replaces Philip Billing.
Attempt missed. Mohamed Elyounoussi (Southampton) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is high and wide to the right.
Attempt blocked. Che Adams (Southampton) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Romain Perraud.
Attempt saved. Marcus Tavernier (Bournemouth) header from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Junior Stanislas.
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