A late Danny Ings penalty, awarded after a controversial VAR decision, saw Southampton edge Brighton and climb to 5th in the Premier League.
Ralph Hasenhuttl named an unchanged team for the third successive game as the Saints looked to beat a Brighton side who are struggling for points this season but have recently showed signs of improvement.
Notably, Southampton’s star man Danny Ings was named as a substitute, returning to the squad after a month on the sidelines with a knee injury.
It was the hosts who started the brighter side and were creating early chances, much to the delight of the 2,000 fans in attendance at the Amex stadium.
At the midway point of the first half the Saints’ sluggish start was punished. Referee David Coote awarded a penalty after the ball hit the hand of James Ward-Prowse in the Brighton box. Although it initially seemed harsh, the Saints captain can’t have too many complaints as his hand was in an unnatural position and with the new rules this season it was always going to be given.
Pascal Gross expertly dispatched the penalty in to the bottom right corner, sending Saints keeper Alex McCarthy the wrong way. 1-0 Brighton.
To Southampton’s credit, they reacted well to going behind. Hasenhuttl’s side started to dominate possession and created chances.
On the brink of half-time they drew level. Ward-Prowse made up for his earlier error with yet another pinpoint corner, this time on to the head of the 6ft6ins Danish International Jannik Vestergaard who guided a looping header into the far corner of the Brighton goal.
With the game now finely poised, both sides pushed for a winner.
Danny Ings’ introduction at half-time proved pivotal. He showed signs of his ability when he skilfully juggled the ball in the Brighton box before linking up with Nathan Redmond, also returning from injury, only for the Saints winger to fire a volley over the bar.
With 10 minutes left Brighton wing-back Solly March made a clumsy challenge on Kyle Walker-Peters and the referee awarded a free kick just outside the box. Much to the audible anger of the Brighton fans, after a lengthy VAR check, the decision was controversially overturned and a penalty awarded. The initial contact was certainly outside the box and David Coote’s on-field decision did not seem a ‘clear and obvious error’. Yet again VAR steals the headlines.
Up stepped Ings who kept his cool and expertly fired home in to the side-netting, leaving Matt Ryan no chance.
The Saints held on and with the win became just the 11th team in history to reach 1,000 points in the Premier League. An impressive haul for the South coast side.
Although it wasn’t by any means a classic Southampton performance this season, they will take confidence from coming back from a goal behind and seeing out a game which could’ve gone either way.
Despite Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl conceding that it wasn’t his teams best performance this season, he was happy with his teams ‘fighting spirit’ and said that “Such games we would never have won last season. This shows the power we have now and the belief in what we do”.
Southampton will now focus on an important game on Sunday as they host Sheffield United and will be looking to cement their place in the top six with a win. They will have the support of 2000 fans inside St Mary’s for the first time since March.
FT: Brighton 1-2 SOUTHAMPTON (Gross 26′ pen) (Vestergaard 45′) (Ings 81′ pen)
Brighton: Ryan, Lamptey, Webster, Dunk (booked), Veltman, March, White (Jahanbakhsh 81′), Bissouma (booked), Gross (booked), Connolly (Maupay 64′), Welbeck (Trossard 82′). Unused subs: Steele, Bernardo, Burn, Alzate.
Southampton: McCarthy (booked), Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Bertrand, Armstrong, Romeu (booked), Ward-Prowse, Djenepo (booked) (Ings 45′), Walcott (Redmond 69′), Adams. Unused subs: Forster, Stephens, Salisu, Diallo, Long.
Wessex Scene Man of the Match: Jannik Vestergaard (Southampton)
Referee: David Coote