James Ward-Prowse and Che Adams both scored impressive goals at Bramall Lane as Southampton won a Premier League game for the first time since January 4.
Desperate to turn their torrid form, Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl gave Kyle Walker-Peters and Takumi Minamino starts as they returned from injury, with Nathan Tella and Ibrahima Diallo also recalled to the first team after missing out on the 1-0 defeat at the hands of Everton.
In this most unlikely relegation tie, with bottom club Sheffield United desperate for points and Southampton having been in freefall down the league table since Will Brookland reported on their rise to the top of the Premier League just four months ago, it was the visitors who started brighter, forcing Ethan Ampadu into an early block from a fierce shot from Stuart Armstrong just moments after kick-off.
An early blow, however, knocked the wind out of the Saints’ sails as Danny Ings pulled up with an injury which will keep the England hopeful out for ‘at least four weeks’ according to boss Hasenhuttl which saw the introduction of Che Adams from the bench on the quarter of an hour mark.
A flurry of corners and chances from the Blades gave the hosts a chance to take the lead, especially given Fraser Forster seemingly lacking confidence when coming for crosses and chances.
Nathan Tella had seemingly the best chance mid-way through the first half as he was played through thanks to a wonderful ball from Jannik Vestergaard. Whilst it looked likely that he’d beat ‘keeper Aaron Ramsdale, it wasn’t to be as the 21-year-old Englishman put his shot well wide.
It was less of a concern for Tella, though, as moments later Ampadu’s silly challenge on the young English attacker gave Paul Tierney no option but to give the Saints a penalty, which Ward-Prowse comfortably put past Ramsdale for 1-0.
On the cusp of half-time, United were nearly level as a poor pass across the midfield from Ibrahima Diallo found no-one. Rhian Brewster – the hosts’ record signing – was quick to pick up the loose ball and find former Southampton man David McGoldrick mustered an attempt at a chipped shot at goal, which was never getting over the 6ft 7ins Forster.
After the break, it didn’t take long for Southampton to put this game to bed. Kyle Walker-Peters – returning to the starting 11 – fired in a low cross towards Che Adams whose shot is parried away by Ramsdale. It wasn’t dealt with by John Lundstram, who ‘cleared’ the ball straight into the path of Armstrong. Armstrong gave it to Adams, whose powerful volley smashed the top corner and demonstrated very clearly who the stronger side in this tie was.
The hosts, to their credit, were dealing with Southampton’s pressure well. The Saints were peppering the Blades’ goal with shots from all over the park, with Armstrong, Adams, Takumi Minamino and substitute Nathan Redmond all having big chances.
A late flurry of bookings came about after John Fleck’s strong challenge on Che Adams; a scuffle broke out as the visitors pleaded with referee Tierney to bring a red card out. It wasn’t to be, though, as the yellow remained in place after VAR looked at the challenge.
At full-time, you could see the relief in the Saints players and staff – it was Hasenhuttl’s 100th game in charge and he would have been desperate for a win in their worst run since he took charge of the club.
However, they also know how difficult the tasks ahead are – they come up against Manchester City in their next game on Wednesday at the Etihad, a tough feat for a side who – despite this win – have still only won two Premier League games in 2021. And the last time they went to Manchester, they were on the wrong end of a 9-0 scoreline.
Meanwhile for Sheffield United, relegation is looming – as it has done for most of the season – as they look on course for an embarrassingly low points tally. The three teams with the worst points tallies in Premier League history are Derby (11), Sunderland (15), Huddersfield (16) – try and find where they are in the Football League pyramid.
FT: Sheffield United 0-2 SOUTHAMPTON (Ward-Prowse 32′ pen, Adams 49′)
Sheffield Utd: Ramsdale, Baldock, Ampadu (booked), Bryan, Bogle (booked), Lundstram, Norwood (McBurnie 45′ (booked)), Fleck (booked), Stevens, Brewster (Sharp 68′), McGoldrick (Mousset 58′). Unused Subs: Lowe, Burke, Foderingham, Osborn, Ndiaye, Maguire.
Southampton: Forster, Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Vestergaard (booked), Bertrand, Armstrong (booked), Diallo, Ward-Prowse, Minamino (Djenepo 88′), Ings (Adams 13′), Tella (booked) (Redmond 77′). Unused Subs: McCarthy, Stephens, Salisu, N’Lundulu, Jankewitz, Chauke.
Wessex Scene Man of the Match: Che Adams (Southampton)
Referee: Paul Tierney.