Late drama as gritty Bluebirds earn vital win
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl says his side have “no chance of staying in the league” if they continue to perform as they did in Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat by fellow strugglers Cardiff.
Kenneth Zohore struck in the third minute of stoppage time to earn the visitors all three points on an emotional afternoon for the Welsh side, who continue to mourn the death of record signing Emiliano Sala.
Jack Stephens looked to have rescued a point for the hosts moments earlier when he tapped Charlie Austin’s flick-on past Neil Etheridge at the far post.
Sol Bamba had opened the scoring for Neil Warnock’s side, beating Alex McCarthy from close range with the visitors’ first effort on target.
Burnley’s victory at Brighton in Saturday’s late game means Southampton slip into the bottom three for the first time since early January.
“Losing in that way is a brutal thing for me,” said Hasenhuttl. “It’s unbelievable how easy we gave those points away.
“We did it last week [against Burnley] and the same again today. It can feel like a win if you draw like that, and then you give it away. That’s stupid and unbelievable for me.
“But it doesn’t change anything. We have to fight until the end, as I was saying in December.
“It’s very narrow, very close, but that was clear in December and it doesn’t change in February.”
.The match at St Mary’s was preceded by a minute’s silence in memory of Sala, whose body was formally identified on Thursday after being recovered from the wreckage of the plane that crashed over the English Channel last month.
For the third game in succession, Cardiff players and staff wore yellow daffodils in honour of the Argentine striker, while the visitors also warmed up in T-shirts bearing Sala’s image.
Warnock said before the game that the struggling Bluebirds must be prepared for “13 cup finals” as they attempt to come to terms with the death of the former Nantes player, and the 70-year-old will have been proud of his side’s resolute defending against their relegation rivals.
Etheridge was the busier of the two goalkeepers, but Southampton were mainly restricted to shots from long range as the visitors stood firm.
Cardiff had barely threatened at the other end in the opening 65 minutes, but Bamba’s goal against the run of play – a smart finish at the far post – sent the away supporters behind McCarthy’s goal into raptures.
Their hopes of claiming three points appeared over when Stephens struck in second-half stoppage time, but Zohore’s effort – his first of the season – ensured Cardiff recorded consecutive top-flight victories for the first time since April 1962.
Having accused his players of “giving two points away” in last weekend’s draw at Burnley, Ralph Hasenhuttl will be wondering how his side failed to claim at least a point here.
The hosts enjoyed 67% possession at St Mary’s, but despite finding the target with seven of their 14 attempts they struggled to test Etheridge in the Cardiff goal.
In a first-half short on clear-cut opportunities, Nathan Redmond fired a low effort into the side-netting before Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg shot straight at Etheridge from the edge of the penalty area.
They went within a whisker of an equaliser when Lee Peltier cleared Charlie Austin’s effort off the line, moments after Yan Valery had been thwarted by Etheridge when one-on-one.
Few would have argued with the result had the game ended after Stephens’ late equaliser, but the Saints failed to hang on as Zohore condemned them to their first league defeat since December.
Having picked up just two points from three games against fellow strugglers Crystal Palace, Burnley and Cardiff, Southampton face a daunting trip to Arsenal in their next fixture.
The win lifts Cardiff out of the relegation zone and into 15th place
Bacuna 7.5 (for Gunnarsson 62 mins)
Zohore 7 (for Reid 62 mins)
Camarasa 7 (for Niasse 83 mins)