Saturday 28 April 2018
Southampton 2, AFC Bournemouth 1
A Dusan Tadic double fired Southampton to a potentially pivotal Premier League win and re-ignited their late surge for survival in a nerve-shredding derby at St Mary's.
The Serbian struck early in each half to cancel out Josh King's leveller on the cusp of the interval and earn his side their first victory in the league since Mark Hughes replaced Mauricio Pellegrino in March. Saints remain in the bottom three, but have now edged to within one point adrift of safety with three games to go, one of which sees them travel to Swansea in their penultimate fixture.
Saints and south coast rivals AFC Bournemouth had never met with more on the line, in a tie described by Hughes as a "black and white must win", with his side still firmly entrenched in the thick of a thrilling and congested six-way battle against the drop. Eddie Howe's side made the short 33-mile trip to St Mary's sat safely in mid-table having never won away from home against their neighbours. With so much at stake, Saints looked as nervous and as edgy as their supporters, and it was the visitors who started strongest. Jan Bednarek encapsulated the uncertainty when he stabbed inches past his own post from a Lys Mousset cut-back.
Saints then went close twice in quick succession, as Steve Cook blocked well from Ryan Bertrand before a stretching Dan Gosling did likewise to deny Mario Lemina's follow up from distance. Moments later, Saints took the lead as they sprung on the break from a Bournemouth corner. Turning defence into attack in an instant, Nathan Redmond picked out Lemina who in turn released Tadic, and with only Asmir Begovic to beat, he raced clear and planted a composed finish beyond the advancing keeper. Saints were now bristling with intent and went close again through the impressive Charlie Austin moments later, the striker's angled effort pushed behind by the increasingly busy Begovic. Alex McCarthy saved well from Nathan Ake at the other end, but Saints were hit with an untimely sucker-punch on the cusp of the interval. Southampton failed to clear their lines from a set-piece and the ball dropped invitingly for the unmarked King, who thumped home a finish into the roof of the net.
The Cherries began the second half as they had the first, with McCarthy called into action again as he tipped wide to keep out Lewis Cook's 20-yarder and deny the combative midfielder his first ever goal for Bournemouth. He would be left to rue that miss as St Mary's erupted again in the 55th minute, with the superb Tadic leading the charge once more. He dispossessed Steve Cook, burst forward, rode the challenge of the backpedalling Simon Francis and fired in from close range. Austin slammed into the side netting, Maya Yoshida's superb last-ditch challenge snuffed out Jermain Defoe as the substitute shaped to shoot, and Charlie Daniels flashed a shot wide from distance in an increasingly end- to- end encounter.
Saints came under siege in the closing stages, with the hosts indebted to the exploits of McCarthy, who denied the Cherries an undeserved point with a magnificent double save in the third of five heart-stopping additional minutes. He saved superbly from Ryan Fraser with his foot, before he palmed a deflected effort wide moments later in what proved to be the final action of one of the best encounters St Mary's has witnessed for many a year. The stadium was rocking at full-time, with no one left in any doubt over the magnitude of an intense and hard-fought result.
Southampton manager, Mark Hughes: "Everyone knew the circumstances; you saw that at the end, a draw or a loss wouldn't do, in the last five, ten minutes, we were throwing ourselves on the line to keep them out, it is a huge result, one doesn't mean anything yet but potentially significant. There's a much better feeling around the club now than there was when I first came here, we have good quality and we showed that today. No doubt a number of teams will be looking over their shoulders after that, and it gives us a fighting chance of getting out of this situation."
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe: "The goals we conceded were big mistakes from our own set – pieces and we got punished – I'm very disappointed with our performance because I know we're better than this. It was a game we could and should have won if we played to our best, but we didn't. We shot ourselves in the foot twice and our decision making was poor, and that's been the story of our recent run."
SOUTHAMPTON: McCarthy; Yoshida, Hoedt, Bednarek; Cedric Soares, Romeu, Lemina, Bertrand; Tadic (Ward - Prowse 87), Austin (Hojbjerg 72), Redmond (Long 59). Booked: McCarthy, Bednarek, Yoshida, Hojbjerg, Cedric Soares.
AFC BOURNEMOUTH: Begovic; Francis, S Cook, Ake; Fraser, L Cook, Gosling (Surman 72), Daniels; Mousset (Ibe 64), Wilson (Defoe 64), King. Booked: L Cook. Man of the match: Dusan Tadic.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Match report by BA (Hons) Sport Journalism student, Jamie Spoor