Sunday 25 February 2018

Villa safe despite Mane's historic hat-trick

Southampton 6-1 Aston Villa

Sadio Mane celebrates after completing his hat-trick
Sadio Mane celebrates after completing his hat-trick

Simon Peach

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman heaped praise on Sadio Mane after his record-breaking hat-trick kicked off an "amazing afternoon" against Aston Villa.

This has been a remarkable season for Saints but one which looked to be petering out after a downturn in performances left them winless in four matches.

Back-to-back defeats at struggling Sunderland and Leicester were particularly uninspiring, but they hit back in some style as FA Cup finalists Villa were swatted aside at St Mary's.

"I enjoyed it very much like all the fans because we play great football," Koeman said.

"We had great spirit from the beginning and that was the difference between the last away games and today, and some help from Aston Villa who played offside, high defending, (gave us) a lot of space and then you have to punish that.

"It was an amazing afternoon. You don't expect that, but I was expecting a reaction of the team after the last two games. The fans deserved this one because they had an amazing support of the team. It was a very enjoyable afternoon."

The result is a timely boost in Southampton's fight for a Europa League berth and one which certainly brings a feelgood factor back to St Mary's.

Saints move onto their best-ever Premier League points tally of 60 after a win in which Shane Long's brace and a Graziano Pelle volley complemented a memorable contribution from Mane.

The Senegal international's treble early in the first half was wrapped up in two minutes and 56 seconds - the quickest in Premier League history, beating the record of four minutes and 33 seconds set by Liverpool's Robbie Fowler in 1994.

"It's not normal to score a hat-trick in two or three minutes, not in the Premier League, Holland or the worst league in the world," Koeman said of Mane, signed from Red Bull Salzburg for £10million last summer.

"Today he demonstrated what we expect from Sadio. He's a great player."

Few foresaw this result given recent results and the upturn in fortunes Tim Sherwood has overseen - however, Hull City's later defeat at Tottenham confirmed Villa's survival.

Villa capitulated during a remarkable first half and were unable to get back into the game, with Christian Benteke's fine header on the stroke of half-time merely a consolation goal.

"I am disappointed" Sherwood said. "Credit to Southampton, they punished every mistake we made. We made quite a few as a group. I'm not just talking about defenders, midfielders, attackers - the coaching staff, everyone who was involved at this football club has to take responsibility and we do. It wasn't good enough."

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