Late turnaround leads to Saints defeat
Southampton 2-1 Spurs
Sat 09 March 2019, 16:55|Tottenham Hotspur
Two goals in the last 14 minutes left us stunned at Southampton on Saturday - and four games without a win in the Premier League.
We'd dominated the first period at St Mary's and deservedly led when Harry Kane exchanged passes with Dele Alli, back in action for the first time since 20 January following a hamstring injury, and finished clinically past Angus Gunn at his near post.
But the hosts regrouped at half-time and made a real go of it, forcing us into more of those costly errors that have occasionally reared their heads in recent outings. Stuart Armstrong's low cross from the left went through three defenders and allowed Yan Valery to strike home at the far post before the in-form James Ward-Prowse curled in a free-kick to complete an important 2-1 win for the hosts and put another dent in our bid to rubber-stamp a top four place.
We were rewarded for a dominant first-half display with a 1-0 half-time lead. Kane was an intimidating presence among the Saints' back line while Lucas Moura - in for his first league start since 2 February - frequently used his pace and trickery to get away from Jannik Vestergaard on the left of the hosts' back three to offer us a useful attacking outlet on the break. Lucas was one of five changes to the side from the midweek victory in Dortmund made by Mauricio Pochettino, who watched from the Directors' Box at his former club as he served the first of a two-match touchline ban.
As far as chances went, Kane fired wide from distance twice in the opening exchanges and curled just off-target from a tight angle after sliding in to win the ball near the corner flag before we hit the woodwork twice in three minutes around the mid-way point of the half. Kane's low driven ball in from the right hit defender Maya Yoshida and cannoned off the near post before Christian Eriksen pinged a 20-yard free-kick against the crossbar.
For Southampton, Charlie Austin's shot-on-the-turn looped up off Eric Dier - playing in the centre of our own back three - and was comfortable for Hugo Lloris but no sooner had that happened, we were straight up the other end and celebrating the opener. Kane found Dele on the break, the returning midfielder stroked it back to him in behind the defence on the right side and the striker took a touch before beating Angus Gunn at his near post with 26 minutes gone.
Dele and Eriksen tested Gunn before the break but Southampton made a double change upon the resumption and immediately started to enjoy more of the possession, having some half-chances to equalise. Substitute Josh Sims fired straight at Lloris, Nathan Redmond found the side netting and captain Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was off-target twice, although Kane went close to doubling his tally in amongst all that as he superbly skipped between defenders in from the left and shot from the angle, only for Gunn to divert it behind with his fingertips.
We weren't getting forward as often as before and as the Saints grew in confidence, they found a way to win. Armstrong, only on the pitch for three minutes, sent a low ball across the box that turned three defenders inside-out, with right wing-back Valery on hand to steer into the top corner at the far post with 76 minutes gone. Five minutes later the turnaround was complete as Kyle Walker-Peters fouled Armstrong on the break and Ward-Prowse curled the free-kick over the wall and into the net away to Lloris' right. We couldn't muster a response despite winning a couple of set-pieces of our own in added time and slumped to our first defeat at St Mary's in 14 years.
We'd bossed the first half and seemed to have Southampton's renewed attacking efforts under control after the break, but a turning point arrived on 76 minutes. Armstrong's low ball in from the left side just had to be cleared, but with the defence outfoxed, Valery guided the ball home at the back post to restore parity.
With the wind in their sails, Southampton quickly added a second to emerge victorious on the south coast.
“I’m very disappointed,” underlined Mauricio. “It’s difficult to accept and understand. We changed a lot from the first half to the second half.
“When you are in control for the first 45 minutes... the game is 90 minutes, not only 45 minutes and in the second half we didn’t play in the way we should play. It’s something I don’t want to accept."
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Southampton 2-1 Spurs
Southampton (3-5-2): Gunn, Yoshida, Vestergaard, Bednarek, Valery, Ward-Prowse, Romeu (Long 46 (Armstrong 73)), Hojbjerg (c), Bertrand, Redmond, Austin (Sims 46). Substitutes (not used): McCarthy, Stephens, Targett, Slattery.
Spurs (3-4-1-2): Lloris (c), Sanchez, Dier, Vertonghen, Walker-Peters, Sissoko, Eriksen, Rose (Davies 82), Dele (Llorente 82), Lucas (Son 71), Kane. Substitutes (not used): Gazzaniga, Foyth, Wanyama, Lamela.
Goals: Southampton - Valery 76, Ward-Prowse 81; Spurs - Kane 26.
Yellow cards: Southampton - Romeu 10, Valery 22, Hojbjerg 78, Redmond 88; Spurs - Walker-Peters 79, Sissoko 88.
Referee: Kevin Friend.
Venue: St Mary's Stadium, Southampton.
Weather: Sunny but windy, 12 degrees.