Southampton move into Premier League's top six with win at Swansea
Published 13/02/2016 | 17:06
Southampton moved into the top six of the Barclays Premier League with a 1-0 win at Swansea.
The in-form Saints had won four and drawn one of their previous five games and Shane Long's 69th-minute header secured another three points for Ronald Koeman's side as Swansea lost for the first time under Francesco Guidolin.
Swansea were accommodating hosts as they created little of note, but they were left to rue referee Jonathan Moss' decision not to award a penalty in the final minute when Saints substitute Maya Yoshida tangled with Alberto Paloschi.
Southampton were full value for their victory and Fraser Forster, for the sixth successive game since returning from a serious knee injury, kept a clean sheet to go past the 500-minute mark without conceding.
The game's decisive moment arrived in the final quarter when Long, finding space in between defenders, was granted the freedom of the penalty area to convert James Ward-Prowse's cross for his ninth goal of the season.
Even then, Lukasz Fabianski might have kept the ball out of his net but he fumbled it over the line to end Swansea's unbeaten run at four games.
Southampton might have had a case for already being ahead as Graziano Pelle had seen his 57th-minute effort disallowed for Jose Fonte dislodging the ball from Fabianski's grasp.
It was a close call whether Fabianski had complete control of the ball but he was relieved to see Moss intervene after Pelle stabbed the ball home.
Both teams came into the game on the back of good form, but it was Southampton who settled quickly and looked the more confident side.
Pelle's volley forced Fabianski into a goal-line stop and Oriol Romeu and Ryan Bertrand could not control their shots from distance.
Swansea tried to get both their full-backs, Angel Rangel and Neil Taylor, forward but Southampton were able to smother home attacks at source by employing a successful high press.
Andre Ayew brought a comfortable save from Forster but the first period had reached its final minute when the Saints goal was genuinely threatened.
Paloschi helped on Rangel's cross to the far post and Swansea would have wanted no-one other than Gylfi Sigurdsson to be on the end of it after scoring five goals in his previous six games.
But Sigurdsson blazed his volley over and Swansea were almost punished for the miss in the final attack of the half moments later.
Fernando Fernandez allowed Steven Davis' cross to clear and Long was perfectly placed to open the scoring, but the Republic of Ireland international headed straight at Fabianski.
Swansea's susceptibility in the air almost cost them from Bertrand's second-half cross but Romeu got in the way of the lurking Pelle and his header was timid.
Pelle was then denied by Moss' whistle and Southampton almost paid the price when Sigurdsson's free-kick found Ashley Williams.
But the Swansea skipper could not provide the telling touch after getting goal side of Virgil van Dijk and a late flurry following Long's strike failed to ease their relegation concerns.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Every game that @ShaneLong7 has scored in for @SouthamptonFC & @FAIreland this season, the team has only lost once!! #superstriker"
Francis Benali @FrannyBenali
Lukasz Fabianski: 6 (out of 10)
Angel Rangel: 6
Federico Fernandez: 5
Ashley Williams: 6
Neil Taylor: 7
Leon Britton: 6
Jack Cork: 5
Wayne Routledge: 5
Gylfi Sigurdsson: 6
Andre Ayew: 5
Alberto Paloschi: 5
Modou Barrow (on for Routledge 60mins): 6
Kyle Naughton (on for Rangel 67mins): 5
Bafetimbi Gomis (on for Britton 73mins): 5
Fraser Forster: 7
Ryan Bertrand: 7
Jose Fonte: 7
Virgil van Dijk: 7
Matt Target: 7
Oriol Romeu: 6
James Ward-Prowse: 8
Steven Davis: 8
Jordy Clasie: 7
Shane Long: 8
Graziano Pelle: 7
Cedric Soares (on for Romeu 63mins): 6
Charlie Austin (on for Pelle 74mins): 7
Maya Yoshida (on for Matt Targett 86mins): 6
James Ward-Prowse: Cultured young midfielder barely wasted a ball as he helped Southampton win the battle for midfield supremacy. Also provided crucial cross which found Long unmarked in Swansea box for decisive header.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Long's stealth in the box. Gave Swansea a warning of his ability to drift between defenders at the end of the first half when he should have opened the scoring but headed straight at Fabianski. Made no mistake at the second time of asking when he got behind Ashley Williams and his header had too much power for Fabianski.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
A first defeat for Francesco Guidolin but these are worrying times for Swansea's new head coach, with an inability to create chances and score goals added to a vulnerability when the ball is in the air. Southampton boss Ronald Koeman is on a high, though, as the Saints are defensively sound and carry plenty of goal threat. A top-six spot is well merited right now.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Southampton will point to Graziano Pelle's disallowed effort after 57 minutes. Did Lukasz Fabianski have complete control of the ball from Ryan Bertrand's cross when the ball was dislodged from his grasp. And did he run into Jose Fonte rather than the other way round? Swansea got away with it, but falls into the 'seen them given' category.
WHO'S UP NEXT?
Southampton v Chelsea (Premier League, February 27).
Tottenham v Swansea (Premier League, February 28).