Report: Southampton 1-0 Spurs
English Barclays Premiership
A spectacular goal from Rory Delap on 64 minutes settled the match and secured the points for Southampton at St Mary's.
For the most part, it was a fairly even encounter with both team creating chances of sorts and it took an acrobatic effort from the midfielder to break the deadlock.
David Pleat set the team out in pretty much a 4-4-2 formation, with Fredi Kanoute being assigned to the right flank and Johnnie Jackson drafted back in on the left after missing out at Manchester United last week. Christian Ziege reverted to left back in the absence of Mauricio Taricco.
Saints re-jigged their midfield following last weekend's defeat to local rivals Portsmouth. Young French midfielder Yoann Folly was handed a debut, while his countryman Fabrice Fernandes - such a thorn in our side in last season's FA Cup defeat - returned to the starting line-up. The lively and in-form Kevin Phillips and James Beattie continued up front for the home side.
It was a relatively uneventful first 15 minutes on an unusually still afternoon - weather-wise - on the South Coast. The only minor alarm from our point of view was when a long throw from Rory Delap in the first 30 seconds was allowed to bounce in the area, but David Prutton was just as surprised as Keller and spurned the chance to gift his side the lead.
Jermain Defoe and Fredi Kanoute saw to it that Annti Niemi was not simply a spectator and exercised the Finnish keeper from outside the area. Danny Higginbotham then had a shooting chance as the game approached the 20-minute mark, but was quickly foiled by Anthony Gardner after being teed up by Phillips.
The first really big chance of the game followed shortly after when a speculative strike from Delap fell nicely into the patch of Beattie, who swung a boot to help it on, but Keller saved excellently with his legs. At the other end, Defoe looked like he had a little penalty shout when tangled with Claus Lundekvam in the home area, but referee Chris Foy kept his whistle close to his chest.
The best chance of the first period came ten minutes before the break when Defoe sought capital from a Jason Dodd slip and was through on Niemi's goal. The livewire striker took the ball left and shot across the keeper, but Niemi was able to get enough of a hand on the ball to divert wide. Minutes later Phillips lobbed over Keller and inches across the face of the goal.
A superbly executed move just before half-time saw Fernandes play the overlapping Telfer in down the right. The Scot's cross was an inviting one for Beattie who volleyed towards goal and just over the bar.
Jamie Redknapp was drafted in for the second period in place of Jackson, with Brown appearing to switch to the right to allow the skipper to take his place in the middle. David Pleat was then forced into a second change three minutes later when Stephen Kelly came on for Ziege.
Five minutes into the half came an incident that could have controversially altered the course of the game. Beattie broke down the left and the assistant ref flagged for an infringement by Garder and play stopped. Little did anyone, apart from Beattie, realise that the ref had waved play on and the striker squared for an unmarked Fernandes, who somehow struck wide from seven or eight yards out.
Spurs enjoyed a greater share of possession as the game settled down again towards the hour mark and just a decisive final pass was missing from some promising approach play. Phillips and Beattie were, however, always a lurking danger and the latter, in particular was looking dangerous in the air and our centre-halves were certainly required to do a spot of overtime.
Despite their best efforts, there was little either Doherty or Gardner could do to prevent Saints taking the lead on 64 minutes, After a succession of corners, the ball was headed back across goal and an athletic overhead kick from Delap gave Keller no chance of reacting and St Mary's came alive.
Spurs pressed as the game entered the last quarter and a rasping Redknapp drive appeared to galvanise the efforts. Keane then went close when played through but his shot was underhit and Niemi saved.
Stephane Dalmat was the last throw of the dice for Pleat, who decided to put the gifted Frenchman on in place of the more defensively minded Brown. It was Saints who nearly doubled their advantage when Beattie was lively on the counter attack, rounded Keller, but was forced left and Delap shot just wide.
Once again at St Mary's, it was not to be.
GUIDE TO THE ACTION FROM ST MARY'S - CLICK REFRESH TO UPDATE
1min: Long throw from Delap allowed to bounce in our area with Prutton not far off making a decent connection.
3mins: Prutton bundled over by Brown 25 yards out - Beattie fired free-kick just wide of Keller's left-hand post.
7mins: Defoe picked up the ball on edge of area and unleashed a rasping drive that forced Niemi to save smartly to his right.
13mins: Low Kanoute drive from 18 yards easily fielded by Niemi.
18mins: Saints free-kick from right of area bought down by Philips and played into path of Higginbotham who shot wide from an angle after being closed down by Gardner.
23mins: SAVE Delap's shot from edge of area deflected into the path of Beattie, who shot first time and Keller reacted brilliantly.
29mins: Penalty shout, Defoe tangled with Lundekvam - ref Chris Foy waved play on.
34mins: BIG CHANCE Defoe clean through following Dodd mistake, he drifted left before shooting low across Niemi, but the keeper got a hand to strike and pushed wide.
37mins: YELLOW Ziege booked for second heavy challenge of Fernandes.
39mins: Phillips through to left of area, shot over Keller and across the face of the goal.
43mins: Good move, Fernandes played Telfer downt he right and his cross was met on the volley by Beattie and just over the bar.
Half-time: Saints 0-0 Spurs
45mins: SUB Redknapp on for Jackson.
50mins: CHANCE Beattie broke down the left and the assistant ref flagged for an infringement by Garder and play stopped. Little did anyone, apart from Beattie, realise that the ref had waved play on and the striker squared for an unmarked Fernandes, who somehow struck wide from seven or eight yards out.
64mins: GOAL 1-0 Overhead kick from Rory Delap following a header back into the area.
71mins: Rasping right foot drive by Redknapp forces top corner save from Niemi.
72mins: Keane through in area, but dinks shot and Niemi fields.
78mins: Beattie through, round Keller but forced left and Delap shot wide.
Team news: Kanoute returns to the side in place of Marney, Jackson replaces the injured Taricco. For the home side, Michael Svensson is out, Jason Dodd expected to play left back with Telfer on the right. Yoann Folly makes his debut and Fabrice Fernandes returns to the side after coming on as sub at Portsmouth last Sunday.
Team: Keller, Carr, Ziege (Kelly 47), Doherty, Gardner, Kanoute, Brown (Dalmat 75), King, Jackson (Redknapp 45), Keane, Defoe. Subs: Hirschfeld, Postiga.
Saints: Niemi, Dodd, Lundekvam, Higginbotham, Telfer, Prutton, Delap, Folly, Fernandes (Svensson 75), Beattie, Phillips (Ormerod 75). Subs: Smith (GK), Hall, Pahars.