Ralph Hasenhuttl completed the home double against North London clubs after a tremendous second-half comeback saw the Saints claim all three points against Tottenham at St Mary’s.
While Pochettino watched from the stands, Spurs deservedly took the lead in the first half after some relentless attacking play resulted in them hitting the woodwork twice shortly before the goal – Yoshida almost sliding the ball into his own net, followed by Eriksen’s free-kick hitting the bar with Gunn helpless.
The goal itself consisted of a characteristic looped pass from returner Dele Alli to Harry Kane, who finished from a tight angle to claim his 200th goal for club and country, and his third in four games. Spurs went into the second half as narrow leaders, but would later rue the chances they wasted in an action-packed first-half on the South Coast.
Understandably, Hasenhuttl made a couple of changes after the break, with Shane Long and Josh Sims attempting to get Southampton level with some fresh energy. This made a huge attacking difference and seemed to kick the rest of the Southampton team into gear. The match switched completely, and Spurs were suddenly on the back foot.
It took until the 76th minute for the Saints to equalise. Armstrong’s cross from the left managed to drift through three Spurs defenders’ legs before falling to Valery, who squeezed in from a few yards out.
Then, five minutes later, Walker-Peters would have feared the worst when he clipped Armstrong, surely denying him a goalscoring opportunity. The lenient decision by the referee to give just a yellow card ultimately didn’t matter, as Ward-Prowse smashed the resulting free kick in, way out of reach of the despairing Lloris, to win the match.
Tottenham utterly fall apart
If Spurs don’t manage to finish in the top four, the team will look woefully back at this pivotal and quite frankly embarrassing second half of football. Yes, Spurs absolutely dominated the first half and should have scored two or three inside half an hour, but the second half more than ruined any hard work they put in during the first 45 minutes.
The two full-backs, Walker-Peters and Rose, each had a huge part to play in the two goals they conceded. Danny Rose made a nonsensical decision to “dummy” Armstrong’s cross into the box, which rolled into the path of Valery. This was an undoubtedly unavoidable goal, but not a lot could have been done about the second in all honesty. Yes, Walker-Peters gave away the free-kick, but got away with denying a clear goalscoring opportunity which probably would have been converted anyway.
The term “bottle jobs” is directed at Spurs frequently by the fans of rival teams, and it’s certainly a sore topic for the Tottenham supporters. However, there are not many other ways to put it – Spurs bottled it on Saturday and are in real danger of bottling a place in the top four. The team needs to recuperate over their three-week matchless break and re-establish some league form.
A tactical turnaround from Hasenhuttl
Throughout the majority of the first half, Southampton were hanging by a thread and desperately trying to keep themselves in the game. Had their opposition been a bit more clinical, any hope of a comeback would have likely faded.
However, Spurs’ slender lead went from looking reasonably secure to worryingly fragile at best as soon as the second half begun. Josh Sims, one of the two substitutions Hasenhuttl made over the break, started to turn the game on its head and showed much more ambition than the rest of the team displayed in the first half put together.
But Hasenhuttl clearly had words with the entire team at half time, and one of those words would almost certainly have been “press”. Perhaps the Austrian manager didn’t quite iterate before the match that Spurs have just come out of a taxing run of fixtures, including a midweek Champions League match in Germany. The Lilywhites were starting to put their confidence back together in the first half, and Hasenhuttl wanted his team to shatter it back into pieces.
And this is exactly what Southampton did. The Saints looked like a different team in the second half, continuously pressing the Tottenham defence, eventually breaking through in the last fifteen minutes of the match.
Spurs lucky to finish with 11 players
The downfall of Tottenham in the second half should have been compounded by at least one red card for the away team. As mentioned earlier, Walker-Peters clearly denied Armstrong a golden opportunity – and it looked pretty deliberate as well. The referee didn’t see it that way though, and the right-back would have been the most relieved man in the stadium.
Later on in the final ten minutes, tempers were clearly starting to flair, demonstrated by a quarrel between Redmond and Sissoko. Redmond gave a slight push into Sissoko’s back and the Frenchman retaliated with a much bigger push of his own into Redmond’s chest, along with what could certainly be described as a headbutt into the Southampton man’s forehead.
Luckily again for Spurs, the referee may have been feeling a little sympathetic to Tottenham’s current situation, giving both Sissoko and Redmond a yellow card. But this doesn’t stop it being an absurd decision by referee Kevin Friend, who should have sent Sissoko straight off the pitch.
The Saints survive a dip into the relegation zone
Around the country, results were going against the Saints’ cause – Cardiff were two goals up against West Ham and Brighton had beaten Crystal Palace earlier in the day – and Hasenhuttl’s men found themselves back in the relegation zone when Harry Kane slotted home.
And Southampton would likely have been informed about their league position when they went into the break – knowledge that may have contributed to their galvanised performance in the second half. The Saints no longer looked like a relegation-fighting team, more like a top-half team trying to assert some authority on their opposition.
This unexpected victory is another huge step towards Premier League survival, and one that highlights the difference that Hasenhuttl has made on the South Coast outfit. Southampton have some very winnable fixtures for the rest of the season given the current form of these opposition. With the relegation battle so tight, the team may look back at this victory as crucial in the coming weeks.
Is Lucas Moura desperately underused?
Although his passing was a little wayward at times, Lucas looked to be one of Tottenham’s brightest sparks on Saturday until he was surprisingly taken off for Son in the 72nd minute. One may have expected Dele Alli to come off since he had only just returned from injury and had a poor game despite his assist.
The Brazilian certainly adds something different to the Spurs team. He has skill and agility that is mostly unmatched by any of his colleagues and has the ability to dribble around players in almost any position. However, Lucas has only made a handful of starts this season, with Pochettino favouring Lamela in recent fixtures.
The 26-year-old basically acted as a new summer signing after recovering from injuries and breaking into the starting XI at the start of the season. However, his contribution in the team has gradually tailed off, despite not having any drastic dips in form. With Kane, Eriksen, Alli and Son all fit and available, Lucas may start to find it even harder to get game time.