Southampton’s Stunning Win Dents Tottenham’s Top-Four Hopes
Two late goals in five minutes earned Southampton an incredible victory against Tottenham, whose top-four hopes took a nosedive.
James Ward-Prowse earned the win with a sensational free-kick from 25 yards to keep the Saints two points clear of the Premier League relegation zone.
The midfielder’s strike came after calamitous defending allowed Southampton to draw level via Yan Valery, who pounced on Danny Rose’s mistake.
Victory seemed unlikely after a first half dominated by Spurs who took the lead when Harry Kane scored his 200th career goal.
But the amazing turnaround earned Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team a second consecutive home win – the first time Southampton have achieved that since December 2016.
Tottenham, whose manager Mauricio Pochettino was in the stands as part of his two-match touchline ban, remain third but, after losing a third league game in four, they now face the prospect of being caught by their rivals.
Manchester United, who were 13 points behind Spurs when Jose Mourinho was sacked as manager on 16 December, can move level on points with Spurs should they beat Arsenal on Sunday.
And if Chelsea win their two games in hand, they will go above Tottenham, who have already reached the last eight of this year’s Champions League, but face second-place Liverpool in their next game.
Ralph Hassenhuttl earned successive home wins for the first time since December 2016Hasenhuttl revels in crucial win
At the final whistle, Hasenhuttl joined his team for a huddle on the pitch as they celebrated their first comeback victory of the season.
No team has dropped more points from winning positions this term, underlined by a 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford last Saturday, where they had led 1-0 and drew level with a Ward-Prowse free-kick.
But this time, the Saints midfielder’s strike proved crucial as he scored a sixth goal in nine appearances to lift Southampton up to 16th in the table – above Burnley, who face Liverpool on Sunday.
Credit must also go to midfielder Josh Sims, who, after his half-time introduction, played a pivotal role in turning around the game after Saints’ poor first half.
The home win was also a first over Tottenham since 2005, but more important was the lift it will give Hasenhuttl’s side at such an important stage of the season.
Tottenham implode as Pochettino watches from stands
Pochettino was cast as a bystander as he returned to his former employers and watched his team unravel from the stands.
That was in contrast to the first period when the visitors hit the woodwork twice before Kane’s opener, after Maya Yoshida fired against his own post and Christian Eriksen clipped the bar with a free-kick.
Dele Alli, who returned to the side after a seven-week injury absence, was a constant threat and set up Kane’s 24th goal of the season.
Part of the turnaround was because of Southampton’s extra impetus, provided by the excellent Sims, making his first appearance of the season after being on loan at Reading, and Shane Long, who also came on at the break but was taken off injured.
But Rose’s decision to let the ball through his legs close to goal handed the hosts a welcome boost.
And they never looked back as Stuart Armstrong strode forward in search of a winner only to be tripped by Kyle Walker-Peters, who was perhaps fortunate to only receive a yellow card.
That looked like a let-off, but with Ward-Prowse deadly from 25 yards out, he still made Spurs pay.
The 24-year-old, who has earned a solitary England cap – against Germany in 2017 – could not have timed his form any better as Gareth Southgate gets set to announce his squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Czech Republic and Montenegro later this month.
Man of the match – Josh Sims
Josh Sims turned the game in Southampton’s favour after coming on at half-time, even if he did take a boot to the head from Jan VertonghenThis is our reality – Pochettino
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino: “It is so difficult to understand why we changed so much from the first half to the second.
“The second half, we did not take it seriously, I don’t want to criticise too much but when you lose a game that was under control after 45 minutes – we should be 3-0, 4-0 – and finishes in 2-1 defeat, it is difficult to accept.
“Their first goal was a cross in front of the goal where four players can put the ball out of the stadium.
“This is our reality. People talk about perceptions but we need to realise if you do not fight with intensity for the Champions League, you will struggle. We are fighting against big sides. We had a big gap, welcome to the reality, we are under pressure to win games. It is a massive challenge for us.”
Saints boss Ralph Hassenhuttl: “We were only 1-0 down but with the two changes at half-time we had more speed and forced them into more mistakes. We had more pressure on the counter press and they got a little bit nervous. They tried to play football but it did not work like the first half. The two goals were fantastic.
“What a massive free-kick from James Ward-Prowse, the keeper had no chance. You know he is dangerous and has a big chance to score.
“We have a lot of players on loan and Josh Sims is back and did not have a chance to show me. He deserved to play and I am very happy he grabbed the chance with both hands.
“The opponents are always winning but this is only a step. It is a big win for us and we have a three weeks’ break, it is a completely different feeling above the relegation line. We need more wins in the last eight games.”
‘Spurs lacked respect for the game’ – analysis
Former Tottenham midfielder Jermaine Jenas:
“I just think it was odd that they couldn’t expect that Southampton would come out [for the second half] a better side.
“They were so poor in the first half. The amount of respect they gave Tottenham – it was almost like a training game.
“In the second half, I did feel [Spurs] lacked the respect that was needed for the moment of the season, for the game. Southampton were brilliant.
“They didn’t wake up, they didn’t smell it and they didn’t sense it.
“The defending [for the equaliser] is ridiculous. It’s comical to be defending like that in such a pivotal moment in the game.”
After a break for the FA Cup quarter-finals next weekend, Southampton face south-coast rivals Brighton in their next Premier League game on 30 March while Tottenham travel to Liverpool the following day.
Only Matt Le Tissier (7) has scored more direct free-kick goals for Southampton in the Premier League than James Ward-Prowse (4).Best of the stats
Spurs have lost three consecutive away games in the Premier League for just the second time under Mauricio Pochettino, previously doing so in November 2017.
Southampton have now won twice against ‘big six’ opposition in the Premier League at home under Ralph Hasenhuttl (three games) – they didn’t manage any wins against them under Claude Puel, Mauricio Pellegrino and Mark Hughes combined (14 games).
Harry Kane’s 200 career goals feature 180 at club level and 20 for England.
Harry Kane has netted in each of his last five Premier League appearances against Southampton for Spurs (seven goals), including in each of the three games at St. Mary’s in this run.