Danny Ings scored a brace as Southampton decisively beat Aston Villa to move out of the bottom three, in what Saints boss Hassenhuttl labelled a ‘present for the fans’.
With both teams on 15 points, this match was a ‘six-pointer’, and the Saints approached it in this manner.
The Saints took control of an initial scrappy period, with the prolific Danny Ings opening the scoring in the mid-point of the first half, slotting in the rebound after Shane Long’s initial effort was parried by Villa keeper Tom Heaton. The pair linked up well throughout and were a constant menace, puncturing the hosts’ defence with guile and pace.
The Saints doubled their advantage after James Ward-Prowse’s corner was met by Jack Stephens, who rose between the static and flat-footed Villa defenders to head into the bottom right corner, to register his first goal of the season.
Saints continued to look dangerous with their wide delivery and deadly duo up front. They found a third six minutes after the break, with Ings capitalising on Nakamba’s loose control to grab his second of the game, and eleventh of the season.
Jack Grealish provided a consolation for the hosts in the final stages of the game, allowing the ball to drop from a corner before firing with curling precision into the top right corner.
Hasenhuttl will be pleased with this performance and victory, their fifth win of the campaign. The Saints’ hunger, desire and battling spirit was paplable through the players collectively covering five kilometres more than the opposition.
Hasenhuttl’s post-match thoughts:
We knew if we played calm and [went]behind the last line of defence there would be space for us. We didn’t do it perfectly in the second half like in the first half.
It’s not June, it’s December but it gives us a lift mentally to see we can win.”
We know it’s a tough race. This win gives us a lift not only out of the relegation zone but also mentally and is exactly what we need.
The victory bodes well for the festive period ahead, where the Saints travel to Chelsea on Boxing Day, whilst Villa face another relegation rival in Norwich on the same day.