Southampton maintained their excellent run of form with another victory on the road, despite a late onslaught from Aston Villa.
It was a pulsating encounter at Villa Park, with Southampton having the better of the opening hour in a dominant display of force. However, complacency crept into the away side’s game, as Saints nearly contrived to throw away a four goal margin.
A powerful header from the ever improving Vestergaard opened the scoring and set the tone for Saints, before two trademark freekicks from Ward-Prowse put the visitors three goals to the good. After half time, in-form Danny Ings added a fourth with a sumptuous finish into the top right-hand corner and it looked as if a massacre was on the cards.
However, Villa saw things differently, with Dean Smith’s Villa showing some overdue spirit in the final half hour. Late goals from Grealish and Watkins, coupled with Mings’ well taken header, gave Southampton fans a nervy finish but
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men did just enough to secure the points.
On an afternoon where VAR was once more under the spotlight, Southampton will feel an impressive away win was dampened by the goals conceded and the injuries sustained to Bednarek, Bertrand and most worryingly, Danny Ings. It is worth noting that the injuries did affect the momentum of the game and Hasenhuttl will be nervously awaiting feedback from his medical staff over the coming days.
Bednarek’s enforced departure at half time meant that Jack Stephens made an unscheduled appearance for the first
time since the crushing defeat to Tottenham. Understandably lacking in match sharpness, Stephens never appeared settled in a nervy performance, whilst the subsequent injury to Bertrand led to the impressive James Ward-Prowse shifting to left back.
Despite looking comfortable in the opening period, Kyle Walker-Peters was given a torrid time in the final quarter by Jack Grealish, who proved a constant menace. Credit is due to the Villa captain who continued to fight valiantly for the Villians’ cause, even at four nil down. Although there were less savoury moments of theatrics from Grealish, there is no denying that he remains one of the most creative and intelligent footballers in the Premier League.
With this win, Southampton moved to third in the table at the time of writing, a marvellous achievement but not altogether surprising given that only Liverpool and Man City have won more games this calendar year than Saints (source: Sky Sports). Furthermore, they have managed 13 goals from their opening 7 games, their best return in the Premier League era (source: Sky Sports). James Ward-Prowse spoke after the game about the collective desire to target a finish in the European places and based on their recent showings, there will be few likely to bet against Southampton.
Here are the three key players for Southampton from the game on Sunday: