16/01/2016: Saints 3-0 West Brom
Saints recorded a second consecutive win against a lacklustre West Brom side at St Mary's. The hosts produced some good football in spells, and maintained control throughout. The result moves Saints up to 10th.
Ronald Koeman deployed a setup similar to the one used against Watford, but mixed up the personnel slightly. Victor Wanyama came back in to anchor the midfield in place of Oriol Romeu, with Steven Davis and James Ward-Prowse operating a bit further forward.
Saints never looked back after taking the lead in the 5th minute. Ward-Prowse brilliantly curled in a free-kick to make it 1-0. The home side looked completely relaxed from that point on. Saints dominated possession, building from the back with some short, sharp passing. Sadio Mane saw his header deflect out for a corner from Cedric's cross. On 30 Saints got away on the counter, with Shane Long shooting at Boaz Myhill after being played in by Matt Targett.
West Brom showed very little guile in the final third, but did have a few half chances. Craig Gardner headed wide from James McClean's left wing cross. The momentum was very much with Saints for most of the way through, although some of the action was a bit dull in spells. On 34 the hosts were awarded a penalty when Targett was hauled over by Craig Dawson. Ward-Prowse stepped up to send Myhill the wrong way, with the Albion keeper committing himself far too early. Saints nearly added another goal a minute later, with McClean clearing Targett's low shot off the line following a scramble in the area.
Tony Pulis sent on Chris Brunt and Salomon Rondon at half-time. The changes made a slight difference initially, with Stephane Sessegnon and Victor Anichebe notching early chances. Saints turned it on when they needed to and conserved energy the rest of the time. Cedric had a shot loop over the bar on 52 following some good build-up play. Mane then fired just wide after combining superbly with Long.
Dusan Tadic replaced Mane just after the hour and was immediately involved in a number of good attacking moves. The player made it 3-0 on 72, after picking out Davis' clever pass just outside the six yard box, before firing into the corner from a difficult angle.
Saints eased off slightly during the last 15 minutes. West Brom saw quite a lot of the ball, but didn't have enough about them to probe Saints' defence. Romeu made a positive run into the box on 81, only for Tadic's cross to be cut-out. Saints had a couple more half-chances on the break, while Brunt sent a free-kick wide for West Brom.
Another satisfactory encounter. Say what you will about the standard of opposition, but Saints have really produced the last two games. The team looked superior throughout, as they did against Watford. For the perhaps the first time this season, we have a coherent system and little relationships forming in different parts of the pitch. Mane and Long work so well together up front. It certainly won't be easy for Charlie Austin to force his way into the starting line-up, or indeed Graziano Pelle to force his way back. There were some raised eyebrows when Romeu and Jordy Clasie's names were missing from the line-up, but Wanyama came in and looked close to his best. Fraser Forster hasn't had many major saves to yet make, but seems to make the rest of the defence more relaxed. Targett and Ward-Prowse did the business again. The latter has gone under the radar slightly in recent times, but still has unbelievable potential. Hopefully this is the springboard for much greater things.
Forster: 7. Once again didn't have many major saves to make, but a few confident claims in the air
Cedric: 7. Another good showing. Attacked aggressively and comfortable in defence
Fonte: 7. Not troubled too much. A solid performance
van Dijk: 7. Made some good runs out from the back
Bertrand: 7. Completed a few decent runs forward and near enough faultless in defence
Wanyama: 7. A seamless return. Broke up play in front of the back four and kept it simple in possession
Davis: 7. Showed great stamina when breaking forward. Some really clever passing
Ward-Prowse: 8. First free-kick goal for Saints' senior side after many close attempts. Used the ball quickly and intelligently
Targett: 7. Not quite at the level he was against Watford, but still an impressive display. Made a number of positive runs down the flank, without ever neglecting his defensive duties
Mane: 8. A real livewire once again. Produced some eye-catching skill and created openings for Long
Long: 8. In the best form of his Southampton career right now. Aggressive closing down and clever movement gave West Brom's backline all sorts of problems
Tadic: 7. Once again did the business from the bench
Romeu: 6. Standard midfield showing
Martina: Bit of a nothing cameo
Saints: Ward-Prowse (5, 35) Tadic (72)
Attendance: 29,622 (1,518 West Brom fans)
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Saints line-up: Forster, Cedric (Martina 84), Fonte, van Dijk, Bertrand, Wanyama, S Davis (Romeu 73), Ward-Prowse, Targett, Mane (Tadic 63), Long
Subs not used: K Davis, Yoshida, Juanmi, Pelle
West Brom line-up: Myhill, Dawson, McAuley, Olsson (Rondon 46), Evans, Sessegnon (Berahino 63), Fletcher (Brunt 46), Yacob, McClean, Gardner, Anichebe
Subs not used: Foster, Chester, McManaman, Lambert