Southampton 2-0 Watford: Saints arrest slide with impressive display
By Patrick Surlis
Last Updated: 14/01/16 12:04am
Southampton recorded their second win in 11 games with a 2-0 victory over Watford in the Premier League on Wednesday.
The Saints dominated throughout at St Mary's, and capitalised on a strong start when Shane Long opened the scoring with a flicked header after 17 minutes.
Sadio Mane squandered a glorious opportunity to double Southampton's advantage 10 minutes before half-time, but substitute Dusan Tadic made the game safe with a low finish on 73 minutes.
Watford, uncharacteristically toothless in attack, were made to wait until the 84th minute for their only shot on target as they dropped to a third consecutive league defeat.
The Hornets made four changes from their FA Cup victory over Newcastle, while Southampton welcomed back goalkeeper Fraser Forster after nine months out with a broken knee-cap.
The biggest alteration for the home side, though, was a tactical tweak by manager Ronald Koeman as Ryan Bertrand slotted in at centre-back in a 3-5-2 formation.
Designed to keep a spare man for in-form duo Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo, it also freed Matt Targett, making his seventh league start of the season, and the Southampton youngster was a constant thorn in Watford's side.
His swinging delivery from the left led to Southampton's opener as Long stole a march on Miguel Britos and glanced an expert header into the far corner for his fifth league goal of the campaign.
That came after Watford's best spell of the first half, as Allan Nyom twice overlapped Almen Abdi to provide searching crosses for Ighalo and Deeney.
But Nyom's frequent forays into the Saints half allowed Targett and Mane to make the most of the vacated space, and the latter went close to doubling Southampton's advantage only for Gomes to tip his shot wide at the last moment.
Targett harried Nyom into a mistake seven minutes after Long's header, but the goalscorer could not finish for a second time past Gomes before Mane squandered a golden opportunity to make it two.
The Hornets, sloppy throughout the opening 45 minutes, gifted possession to Mane after a misjudged square pass from Jose Manuel Jurado, but the Southampton forward clipped the post with his low effort.
Forster was a virtual bystander as Ighalo saw Watford's one opportunity cleared for a corner. The away side pounced on Cedric Soares, and swept the ball forward to the in-form striker, who beat Jose Fonte but Bertrand recovered to deflect the goal-bound shot wide.
Three minutes after the restart Gomes and Mane collided as the latter looked to head home, before Mane looked for Long with a back-heel when well-placed to shoot himself.
The Hornets improved marginally following the introduction of Ikechi Anya, and the substitute nearly found Ighalo with a driven cross with just under half an hour to play.
Southampton had the ball in the net shortly after, but Steven Davis was adjudged offside after a fine through ball from Oriol Romeu.
And the Saints still had time to waste two more good chances before Tadic put the game beyond Watford with just over 15 minutes remaining. Mane and Long failed to convert Virgil van Dijk's low centre before Mane whipped a low shot past Gomes' near post, but the home side eventually made their pressure pay.
Tadic held off two Watford challenges to slot past Gomes just two minutes after coming on, and Southampton comfortably saw out the final stages.
Having lost eight of their previous 10 before Wednesday's game, the Saints will head into Saturday's fixture at home to West Brom with renewed confidence, while for Watford, they must look to bounce back on their travels at Swansea on Monday Night Football.
Southampton: Forster (6), Cedric (7), Fonte (6), van Dijk (7), Bertrand (7), Targett (8), Romeu (7), S. Davis (6), Clasie (6), Mane (7), Long (8)
Subs used: Pelle (6), Tadic (7), Yoshida (6)
Watford: Gomes (6), Nyom (5), Britos (5), Prodl (5), Holebas (6), Capoue (6), Watson (6), Abdi (5), Deeney (5), Jurado (6), Ighalo (5)
Subs used: Anya (6), Ibarbo (6), Cathcart (6)
Man of the match: Shane Long