James Ward-Prowse scored two stunning first-half free-kicks to help in-form Southampton beat Aston Villa 4-3 at Villa Park in the Premier League.
However, the visitors brushed aside that disappointment to open the scoring after 20 minutes thanks to Jannik Vestergaard's bullet header, before the Saints captain took over on his 26th birthday.
The England international became the first player in Premier League history to score two direct free-kicks (33 and 45) in the first half of a game to put his side in total control, before Danny Ings' long-range curler made it 4-0 13 minutes after half-time.
Despite Tyrone Mings's glancing header (62), an Ollie Watkins penalty (90+3) and Jack Grealish's clever finish (90+7), though, it was too little, too late for the home side, who slipped down to sixth in the table, while Ralph Hasenhuttl's team jump up to third ahead of this afternoon's fixtures having collected 13 points from their opening seven games.
Aston Villa: Martinez (6), Cash (6), Konsa (6), Mings (7), Targett (7), McGinn (6), Luiz (6), Grealish (8), Barkley (7), Watkins (6), Traore (6)
Subs: Trezeguet (8), El Mohamady (6)
Southampton: McCarthy (7), Walker-Peters (7), Vestergaard (7), Bednarek (6), Bertrand (6), Armstrong (6), Romeu (6), Ward-Prowse (9), Walcott (6), Ings (7), Adams (7)
Subs: Stephens (6), Long (6), Diallo (6)
Man of the match: James Ward-Prowse
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How Saints maintained recent momentum
Villa had already been given a warning after just three minutes when after a left-wing corner that was flicked on at the near post, Konsa got into a muddle and headed past his own goalkeeper.
Luckily for the hosts, eagle-eyed VAR Chris Kavanagh noticed that Saints striker Adams had just strayed beyond the last man, only for the in-form visitors to then make the breakthrough when Vestergaard lost John McGinn in the box to power home Ward-Prowse's inviting free-kick from near the right corner flag.
The Saints skipper soon took control of the contest himself by twice finding the back of the net with sumptuous free-kicks from the edge of the box that left Emiliano Martinez helpless in the Villa goal.
Dean Smith handed forward Bertrand Traore his first Premier League start for the club in Villa's only change from the 3-0 loss at Leeds last time out, with Trezeguet dropping to the bench.
As or the visitors, Ralph Hasenhuttl brought in forward Theo Walcott in place of Nathan Redmond, who had to settle for a place on the bench, while Moussa Djenepo returned to also take his place on the subs' bench.
When Ings - who later went off with another worrying knee injury - capped off a fine passing move involving Kyle Walker-Peters, Ward-Prowse again and Stuart Armstrong with a stunning 25-yard curler into the top right-hand corner of the net, the match seemed over as a contest.
Credit the hosts, however, who showed great spirit and character to make a game of it in the final quarter as first Mings headed in Grealish's cross, before stoppage-time strikes from Watkins - via the penalty spot - and the Villa captain himself added a late gloss to the scoreline.
Ward-Prowse overtakes Le Tissier - Match stats
- Southampton have picked up 13 points from their opening seven Premier League games this season (W4 D1 L2); the Saints' most at this stage of a campaign since 2014-15 (also 13)
- Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has lost each of his three Premier League meetings with Ralph Hasenhüttl's Southampton, with his side conceding nine goals across the three games
- Southampton have now won 14 of their 34 Premier League away games under Ralph Hasenhüttl - their joint-most under the same manager in the competition, along with Ronald Koeman (14 wins in 38 away games)
- Since the start of last season, only Jamie Vardy (29) has scored more Premier League goals than Southampton's Danny Ings (27), while no player has scored more from outside the box than Ings (5) in this period
- James Ward Prowse has now scored eight direct free-kick goals for Southampton in the Premier League, overtaking Matt Le Tissier as the player with the most for the club in the competition
What the managers said...
Dean Smith: "Look at the last two games, it's been seven goals (conceded) but we've been far from porous. Today it was three goals from outside the box and a header from a free kick.
"As good a header as it was we have to defend it better but we're certainly not porous that's for sure.
"It didn't felt like a hammering, they were just quality finishes. It's a bit of a crazy situation. There are a lot of strange scorelines already.
"The one thing I said to the players was 'what might have been'. It was a real scrap in the first half, lots of shouting and whistle blowing but unfortunately they have got a specialist in Ward-Prowse.
"They had four shots on target and scored all four. In the second half we found our rhythm and gave them a lot more problems and restricted them getting men around the ball."
Ralph Hasenhuttl: "It's no coincidence he is our captain, he's our role model for what we stand for - he's an unbelievable fighter for the team. When he gets a chance around the box he is unbelievable.
"I am happy for him to have scored two but also because he supplied an assist for the first goal and for the one disallowed by VAR.
"On free kicks he is amazing and he is getting better. I am very proud of my team but we have to be committed and organised.
"The first 60 minutes was pleasing but not the last 30 minutes. We stopped doing what we were doing. We were four goals up but we stopped doing the things that had got us there against a very strong team."
🎯 James Ward-Prowse is only the second player in the last 5 years to score 2 PL direct free-kicks in the same game (since Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen v Swansea in October 2015) & the 9th player in the competition’s history pic.twitter.com/8QW2NwEa2Y— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) November 1, 2020
Man of the Match - James Ward-Prowse
The all-action midfielder has most definitely given England manager Gareth Southgate a big nudge ahead of next summer's European champion with his sparking performance at Villa Park.
Not only was there an assist in the form of a pinpoint accurate centre for his side's crucial opener, but that was followed by the birthday boy's part tricks in the shape of two spellbinding first-half free kicks.
Make your mind up which was the better, not that the England international will care…
⭐ James Ward-Prowse has scored and assisted in the same PL game for the first time since February 2018 (v West Brom)— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) November 1, 2020
He’s scored 7 PL direct free-kicks, the joint-most in the competition for @SouthamptonFC (level with Matt Le Tissier) pic.twitter.com/7FqEA8LaAX
Villa take on Arsenal at the Emirates on Sunday November 8 (7.15pm) in a match you can see live on Sky Sports Box Office.
Southampton, meanwhile, face Newcastle United on Friday November 6 (8pm) in a game you can see live on Sky Sports Premier League.