A superb solo goal from Danny Ings gave Southampton a deserved victory over an underwhelming Tottenham Hotspur for the second year running.
Ralph Hasenhuttl made two changes from draw against Crystal Palace last Saturday, with Moussa Djenepo and Stuart Armstrong replacing Che Adams and Sofiane Boufal.
Saints were livelier from the outset, and almost took the lead inside three minutes as Cedric nodded Ryan Bertrand’s in-swinging delivery across the face of goal. At the other end of the pitch, Harry Kane had a couple of half chances in quick succession. Kane’s first effort was blocked by the leg of Jan Bednarek, before his deflected effort was smartly saved by Alex McCarthy.
The breakthrough for the hosts came in the 17th minute via in-form Ings. The Saints striker controlled Jack Stephens’s looping ball with an exquisite first touch, taking the ball over Alderweireld’s head, before allowing the ball to bounce up invitingly and fire it into the back of the net past Paulo Gazzaniga. The goal was identical to Paul Gascoigne’s memorable strike against Scotland in Euro 1996. It now means that Ings’s tally of 13 Premier League goals is his best goalscoring season.
Spurs again came close to levelling the score when Kane’s venomous shot was spilled by McCarthy, prompting Dele Alli to race in for the loose ball, but was sent over by the onrushing goalkeeper. A brief VAR review ruled out the possibility of a penalty, deeming the Saints keeper to have won the ball fairly. From the subsequent corner, Jan Vertonghen blazed an effort over the crossbar from close range – the biggest chance of the half for the visitors.
Southampton had a penalty shout turned down early in the second half, as Bertrand’s cross struck the arm of Alderweireld. Referee Mike Dean waved away the protests, which was reviewed and upheld by VAR, deeming the defender as unable to move at such proximity. Kane then had the ball in the net from Christian Eriksen’s free-kick, but the linesman instantly flagged for offside. VAR was again called into action and again upheld the linesman’s decision. The Spurs and England captain then had his hand up, signalling his discomfort in his left hamstring before being substituted.
Tensions flared in the aftermath between Jose Mourinho and Southampton’s goalkeeping coach Andrew Sparks. Mourinho strode out of his technical area to confront the opposing staff over a perceived delay in the time taken to substitute Obafemi for Ings. Mourinho and Sparks exchanged some cross words; as a result, Mourinho received a yellow card for his actions, capping a miserable day for the Portuguese at St. Mary’s. The Tottenham manager stated after the match: ‘I was rude, but I was rude to an idiot‘; perhaps this is another example of Mourinho deflecting from a poor performance.
Southampton came close to scoring a second with five minutes left, as substitute Shane Long rose above Vertonghen to meet a James Ward-Prowse delivery, but his header flew wide of the post. Lucas Moura’s efforts to finding an equaliser were blocked by Redmond and Bertrand. The latter struck Bertrand on the arm before going wide, prompting the use of VAR for another penalty check, but nothing was given, much to Southampton’s relief.
Saints secured their fourth clean sheet of the season, starkly contrasting to the 9-0 hammering against Leicester in October. The result sees Southampton extend their unbeaten run to four matches, having taken 10 points from their four games over the festive period. Further, the Saints have taken 16 points from a possible 24; a run of form which steers them away from the relegation zone and rise as high as 11th.
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl told Sky Sports:
It’s a fantastic start to the year – a really intense game – and our best performance at home so far. We were so aggressive, so committed, very difficult to create chances against this team.
Everyone was doing his best job. We can score always but the key was the work against the ball and the clean sheet. This is the biggest difference from two months ago.”
Ings is in an unbelievable moment when he has a chance he scores, to do what he did today you need a lot of self-confidence and he is full of confidence.”
Southampton are next in action on Saturday when they host Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup 3rd round, whilst Spurs travel to Middlesbrough on Sunday for their tie.