Premier League: Southampton beat Fulham 2-0 at St Mary's
Southampton produced a stylish display to beat Fulham 2-0 in the Premier League on Saturday.
By Ben Hampshire - Follow me: @BH92
Last Updated: 27/10/13 7:39am
Despite a summer of big-money signings, talk on the south coast of a European challenge was laughed off by most right-minded people.
However, Saturday evening's victory over Fulham propelled Southampton to third in the Premier League to make this a better start than they managed when finishing runners-up in 1983/84.
Mauricio Pochettino's side dominated from the outset, with Fulham failing to muster a single shot in a first half in which headers from Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez put the hosts deservedly ahead.
Only Maarten Stekelenburg's fine form, the goal frame and bad luck prevented Saints racking up an even greater margin of victory, as they secured a sixth clean sheet of the campaign - a far cry from the 26 goals they had conceded at the same stage of last season.
Adam Lallana scored the equaliser in last week's 1-1 draw at Manchester United and was almost involved in another goal after five minutes on the south coast.
The Saints captain dispossessed dawdling Philippe Senderos and went onto test Stekelenburg, whose parry would have been slotted home by Morgan Schneiderlin if it was not for Fernando Amorebieta's clearance off the line.
Lambert fired a tame effort straight at Stekelenburg as Saints' fine start continued, before Senderos reacted quickly to stop the England international putting Rodriguez through on goal.
Victor Wanyama flashed a left-footed 30-yard strike just wide as Pochettino's side continued to threaten an opener that arrived in the 20th minute.
James Ward-Prowse's corner from the right was flicked on by Rodriguez, with Lambert rising at the far post to powerfully head home.
Fulham had Stekelenburg to thank for stopping Southampton doubling their advantage just two minutes later.
Epitomising the confidence coursing through the hosts' veins, Rodriguez surged forwards, put the ball through Senderos' legs, only to see his strike tipped around the post by the Holland international.
Rodriguez nodded wide as Martin Jol's side continued to struggle, with Lambert hitting the post with a right-footed drive as Saints continued in the ascendancy.
Stekelenburg was soon back in action when Ward-Prowse sent a deep cross to the back post, where Lambert drifted in unmarked to force the Whites goalkeeper into a fine save, with Sascha Riether deflecting Luke Shaw's follow-up into the side-netting.
Another deep cross, this time from Lallana, found Lambert, whose looping header back across the goal was nodded home by Rodriguez.
It was one of 14 shots Southampton managed in a dominant first half, with play continuing in the same direction after the restart for which Aaron Hughes replaced Riether.
Rodriguez came close to getting a third goal in the most stunning fashion in the 69th minute, meeting a Ward-Prowse cross with an exquisite scissor-kick that whistled just wide.
Steve Sidwell attempted his own acrobatic effort as the clock wound down and, although it was wayward, it was their first and only shot of the match.