by Dan Davis (@dan_davis20)
Bournemouth’s dismal Premier League record against Southampton continued after Dusan Tadic’s brace fired Saints to victory at St Mary’s, and condemned Cherries to a third consecutive defeat.
Mark Hughes’ relegation strugglers largely controlled proceedings on the south coast, and deservedly took the lead on 25 minutes through the Serbian, Tadic. Cherries equalised against the run of play on the stroke of half-time, when Josh King stabbed past Alex McCarthy from close range, but Tadic blasted past Begovic once again early in the second half to earn a crucial victory for Saints in their battle against relegation.
Cherries boss Eddie Howe made two changes to the side that fell to a 2-0 defeat against Manchester United, with Lys Mousset and Dan Gosling handed starts in place of Andrew Surman and Jordon Ibe. Tyrone Mings was named among the substitutes, the 25-year-old returning to the first-team fold for the first time since Cherries’ 3-0 defeat at Arsenal in September. Australian international Brad Smith also made the bench at St Mary’s.
Mark Hughes also made two alterations to Saints’ line-up – Tadic and Nathan Redmond were recalled, with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Shane Long dropping out.
The home side started brightest, with Charlie Austin and Dusan Tadic combining well and stretching the visitors’ five-man defence. A searching ball over the top of the Cherries’ back line almost picked out Redmond’s frantic race down the touchline, before another hoisted delivery into the penalty area narrowly evaded the head of Austin.
But, bizarrely, Saints almost fashioned their own downfall after ten minutes when King’s cross was deflected by Jan Bednarek towards his own net, the interception dropping narrowly wide of McCarthy’s far post.
Despite the scare at the other end, the home side continued to flood forward in search of an early opener and twice went close, Cherries skipper Simon Francis and Steve Cook superbly throwing their bodies in the way of two close-range strikes in quick succession.
And moments after Fraser’s hopeful cross was easily cleared, Saints took the lead and sent St Mary’s into delirium. Redmond charged forward into the Cherries’ half and fed through Mario Lemina, who in turn released Tadic into space – the Serbian raced into the penalty area and coolly converted past the onrushing Asmir Begovic to fire the home side in front.
Saints could have quickly edged two goals in front, but Begovic was on hand to parry behind Austin’s audacious effort from a tight angle. Just a minute later, Lemina was next to try his luck but could only bend an effort from 20 yards well over the target.
Lemina was once again involved on 32 minutes, picking the ball up after a flowing counter from Saints. The Gabonese international chanced his arm from long range and looked to have beaten Begovic, before the towering Bosnian spectacularly palmed the strike away at full stretch.
In a rare foray forward for the visitors, Fraser volleyed well off target, before Saints looked to have been denied a penalty with five minutes of the half remaining.
A corner from the home side was only cleared as far as the edge of the box, and a delicate chip over the Cherries’ backline found the waiting Austin. The striker, who boasts a prolific scoring record against Bournemouth, cleverly flicked over Cook’s head and looked set to tuck home, before Begovic leant in with his elbow before pouncing on the ball. Referee Anthony Taylor waved away the, albeit muted, appeals.
As the first half drew to a close, the visitors entered their best spell of the game. Nathan Ake controlled well on the penalty spot and span past his marker before seeing his close range effort smothered by McCarthy’s outstretched leg, before the Cherries’ late rally finally produced a leveller.
Another corner was looped towards the back post, where Cook flicked on for King to stab high into the roof of the net from a tight angle and silence St Mary’s on the stroke of the interval.
However, it was the home side who emerged from the break looking stronger, with two efforts coming close after Lewis Cook’s ambitious drive was saved. Firstly, the ever dangerous Tadic fed Lemina on the outskirts of the box, whose strike was blocked at close range. The ball then fell to Redmond, who, after being urged to shoot by the Saints faithful, could only drive an effort into the prostrate Lemina before the visitors cleared.
On 54 minutes, Saints capitalised on their pressure and retook the lead. A goal-kick from McCarthy drifted well over the halfway line and dropped to Steve Cook, who mis-controlled on his chest under pressure from Tadic. The Serb strode towards goal and flashed a sumptuous strike past Begovic and into the far corner, another crucial moment in Saints’ battle against the drop.
The Cherries looked to immediately respond, but were once again left frustrated after Mousset and King could only fire into the chest of McCarthy. Howe then introduced Jermain Defoe and Jordon Ibe in place of Mousset and Wilson, whilst persevering with the largely ineffectual five at the back formation.
But despite the changes, it was Saints who continued to fashion out the best openings. On 68 minutes, a low cross from Austin between defender and goalkeeper was stabbed towards goal from close range by substitute Shane Long, the Irishman denied Saints’ third by the sprawling Begovic.
Ryan Bertrand’s foray forward almost resulted in a goal, but the full back’s powerful strike from the angle was well fielded by the Cherries’ shot stopper. Austin then picked up the ball after a clever flick from Tadic inside the box, but could only sweep an effort into the side netting as Saints threatened to wrap up the points.
Heroic, last-ditch tackles from Wesley Hoedt and Steve Cook preserved the score line in the final ten minutes, before substitute Andrew Surman twice went close – a curling effort whistled narrowly wide of McCarthy’s far post, before the midfielder met Cook’s long throw and fired off target.
Into stoppage time, Cherries looked to once again cement their position as the Premier League’s comeback kings. McCarthy deflected an effort out with his legs on 90 minutes, before King curled off target, then Saints’ stopper pulled off a stunning stop to parry behind Fraser’s goal-bound effort on the stroke of full time.
The late pressure from the visitors resulted in nothing, and Saints held on for a crucial three points in their battle for survival, whilst forcing Bournemouth to a third, consecutive top flight defeat.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Dusan Tadic (Southampton)
Southampton: McCarthy, Cedric, Yoshida, Hoedt, Bednarek, Bertrand, Romeu, Lemina, Redmond (Long, 58), Tadic (Ward-Prowse, 86), Austin (Hojbjerg, 71)
Unused substitutes: Forster, Stephens, Gabbiadini, Sims
Bournemouth: Begovic, Fraser, Francis, S. Cook, Ake, Daniels, L. Cook, Gosling (Surman, 72), Mousset (Ibe, 64), King, Wilson (Defoe, 64)
Unused substitutes: Boruc, B. Smith, Pugh, Mings