Stoke 1-2 Southampton: Graziano Pelle strikes twice in Saints win
By Patrick Surlis
Last Updated: 13/03/16 2:02pm
Two first-half goals from Graziano Pelle were enough for Southampton as they beat Stoke 2-1 at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.
The visitors controlled the first half of the Premier League clash and went ahead in the 11th minute when Pelle headed home his first goal since November, before the striker doubled his tally on the half-hour mark with a low finish past Jack Butland.
Marko Arnautovic pulled a goal back on 52 minutes as Stoke improved after the break, although James Ward-Prowse rattled the crossbar as the away side looked to make the game safe.
Saints substitute Sadio Mane saw red in stoppage time after clashing with Erik Pieters, but the visitors held on to secure their first win since mid-February.
The win sends Southampton above Stoke into seventh and keeps alive their hopes of European qualification with Liverpool to come at St Mary's next Sunday, while the hosts drop to ninth.
Stoke were boosted by the return of Ryan Shawcross, who made his first appearance since January, while Ronald Koeman made two changes from the 1-1 draw against Sunderland as Shane Long and Matt Targett came into the side.
In front of a record crowd at the Britannia, the visitors started on the front foot and Butland was called into action early, tipping over Pelle's flicked header.
From the resulting corner the Southampton striker, who had not scored for 13 matches, escaped the attention of Philipp Wollscheid and found the net at the near post.
The visitors nearly doubled their lead immediately, but Butland parried Long's shot clear after the forward latched onto Cuco Martina's through ball.
The away side did make it two after 30 minutes, as Dusan Tadic and Pelle combined before the Italian received the return pass and curled past Butland.
A difficult first half got worse for Stoke when Xherdan Shaqiri was forced off through injury, and the Potters struggled to get their creative players involved.
They enjoyed more than 60 per cent possession in the first half but were continually hit on the counter, and should have gone in at half-time three goals behind as Tadic squandered a glorious opportunity.
Long got behind the Potters defence again and squared for the Serb, but the Saints attacker took too long with the goal gaping, allowing Geoff Cameron to scramble back and clear.
It looked like the miss may prove costly when Arnautovic grabbed his 11th goal of the season seven minutes after the break.
The Stoke forward fired past Forster from Ibrahim Afellay's low cross, and the goal gave Stoke a lift as they swiftly went in search of the equaliser.
Arnautovic drew a save from Forster with a firm drive, before last-ditch defending from the impressive Virgil van Dijk denied Mame Diram Diouf with the striker poised to pull the trigger.
Referee Lee Mason turned down a Southampton penalty appeal after Tadic went down under the challenge from Butland, and Mark Hughes brought on Peter Crouch as Stoke chased a leveller, but his introduction saw the home side go more direct.
That suited the Saints as they repelled the Potters attack, and Ward-Prowse struck the woodwork with a fine free-kick with three minutes to play.
The visitors were made to sweat in the final stages when Mane was controversially sent off following a collision with Pieters, but Stoke failed to test Forster again as Southampton secured the three points.
Charlie Nicholas's Soccer Saturday verdict
"Did Southampton deserve it? Maybe just. Tadic should have wrapped it up for them - and he was denied a stonewall penalty. They made hard work of it but Stoke, to their credit, came into it. It was more aggression than quality; compliments to the Southampton defence."
Stoke: Butland (6), Cameron (6), Shawcross (5), Wollscheid (5), Pieters (6), Imbula (6), Whelan (6), Shaqiri (6), Afellay (6), Arnautovic, (7) Diouf (4)
Subs used: Crouch (5), Bojan (6), Walters (6)
Southampton: Forster (6), Martina (6), Van Dijk (8), Bertrand (7), Targett (7), Romeu (6), Clasie (6), S Davis (6), Tadic (7), Pelle (8), Long (8)
Subs used: Mane (4), Yoshida (6), Ward-Prowse (6)
Man of the match: Graziano Pelle