Second half goals from England trio Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez ensured Southampton won for the only the second time in their last 9 away league outings at the expense of Fulham. The hosts dominated in spells during the first half, but were made to pay for their inability to beat the imperious Artur Boruc as Saints secured the 3-0 win to put them within 2 points of Newcastle United.
Boruc was on hand to deny Brede Hangeland and Darren Bent in the first half as Fulham looked to make home advantage count, but came undone midway through the second half as Lallana beat Maarten Stekelenburg from an acute angle after a Lambert pass. Provider then turned goalscorer with 20 minutes remaining after substitute Nathaniel Clyne picked out WhoScored man of the match Lambert to double Saints’ advantage, before Rodriguez confirmed the 3 points for the visitors with a curling effort in the 75th minute.
The victory was little more than Saints deserved following a dominating display, in which they controlled the tempo for much of the 90 minutes. Enjoying 61% of the possession, an impressive feat for any team playing away from home, Saints were in control for large periods as they picked up their 9th win of the season.
When taking into consideration the 17 shots they had compared to Fulham’s 8, it’s little surprise that Saints came away with the share of the spoils. The win will give Mauricio Pochettino’s side the confidence to continue their unbeaten run, now standing at 6 in all competitions, ahead of winnable fixtures against Stoke, Hull and West Ham.
The defeat leaves Fulham rooted to the foot of the table having now shipped 53 goals this term, an average of 2.2 per game. The Cottagers have won just 3 of their last 16 league games and there is a very real concern that relegation is a possibility. Despite the debuts of new arrivals William Kvist and Lewis Holtby, René Muelensteen’s side were completely outplayed in a match that the Dutchman afterwards confirmed they viewed as winnable.
Victories for Sunderland, West Ham and Cardiff haven’t aided their quest to remain in the Premier League, but the club haven’t helped themselves by dropping points at home once again. Up until Lallana’s opener, Fulham were more than a match for Saints, and had Hangeland or Bent finished good chances in the opening 45 minutes, it could well have been a different story. However, the second half display of the visitors has left the west London outfit looking up the table, 3 points from safety.
The lack of guile was particularly telling, with Fulham executing only 5 key passes to Southampton’s 15. With the triumvirate of Scott Parker, Steve Sidwell and Kvist in the middle of the park, a trio of grafters rather than crafters, the lack of creativity came as little shock. Of the 5 key passes by the Cottagers, 3 were by Holtby, a player who will bring inventiveness and energy to the midfield, yet was played out of position on his first start for his new team.
The German’s influence was regularly nullified by full-backs Luke Shaw, Calum Chambers and Clyne and while it’s understandable that Meulensteen fielded the aforementioned midfield three to counter the influence of Victor Wanyama, Morgan Schneiderlin and Jack Cork, the deployment of Holtby on the wing meant his innovativeness was limited and it showed, especially after half time when a rampant Southampton exhibited their superiority.
Come full time, Saints deserved a big 3 points that will go a long way to improving their chances of securing a European spot. For Fulham however, they will need to pick up a positive result in their upcoming league fixtures, despite having to play 5 of the current top 7 over their next 8 games, otherwise the possibility of dropping into the Championship will soon become reality.Published 03 Feb 2014, 14:30 IST