Saints end Arsenal's run with stunning win

By SFC Media Sun 16 Dec Saints v Arsenal
Photo by Matt Watson | Nathan Redmond
Sun 16 Dec 1.30PM
Premier League
Southampton
3
Arsenal
2
Ings [20' 44'] Austin [85']
Mkhitaryan [28' 53']
Bednarek (51') Armstrong (71') Long (90+5')
Koscielny (60')
Referee: Chris Kavanagh | Venue: St Mary's Stadium | Attendance: 29,497

Ralph Hasenhüttl masterminded an enthralling 3-2 victory in his first home game as Southampton manager to end Arsenal’s 22-match unbeaten run and send St Mary’s into a frenzy.

Twice Saints led through returning top scorer Danny Ings and twice Arsenal responded through Henrikh Mkhitaryan, before substitute Charlie Austin headed home a dramatic winner five minutes from time.

It was no more than a spirited Saints effort deserved, as Hasenhüttl delivered on his promise to demand high intensity, passionate football from his team.

The new boss made two alterations for his St Mary’s bow, also opting for a change in formation, as Maya Yoshida joined Jan Bednarek and Jannik Vestergaard to form a back three, while Ings returned after a five-match injury absence to lead the line.

Mario Lemina and Charlie Austin dropped out of the side, with Academy graduates Yan Valery and Matt Targett operating as wing-backs.

Saints started with purpose, noticeably taking less touches and moving the ball quicker, but it was the visitors who were first to threaten through their top scorer.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is tied as the Premier League’s leading marksman with ten goals, but could have been out on his own when he latched on to Mattéo Guendouzi’s lofted pass.

Taking it down in an instant, the striker went eye to eye with Alex McCarthy but came off second best, as the England international stood tall to deny him.

It was an early reminder of the danger posed by a visiting team who arrived at St Mary’s 22 matches unbeaten in all competitions – a run of four months without defeat.

Hasenhüttl acknowledged the Saints fans as he was unveiled shortly before kick-off

But back came Saints, with Nathan Redmond buzzing around and making life difficult for a makeshift Gunners back three.

His deflected shot bobbled wide of the scrambling Bernd Leno’s goal, before the keeper was sent stooping to his left to thwart Stuart Armstrong’s curler.

Saints were gaining confidence and Arsenal could have no complaints when the hosts made the breakthrough after 19 minutes.

Receiving the ball wide on the left, Targett took a touch out of his feet and delivered a beauty of a cross attacked by Ings, who got across the near post and sent a powerful header past the helpless Leno.

Hasenhüttl pumped both fists before visibly calming himself down on the touchline, knowing this was no more than a promising start against a team who bizarrely have not led a Premier League game at half time all season.

The boss was proved right in restraining his own celebrations, as Arsenal took less than ten minutes to hit back, doing so in similar fashion to the goal that temporarily rocked them.

Instead of Targett, it was Nacho Monreal storming down the left and picking out Mkhitaryan, whose downward header skipped up off the surface and away from McCarthy’s outstretched hand to nestle just inside the far post.

Saints had Jan Bednarek to thank for preserving parity soon after, as Lucas Torreira’s low cross looked destined to be finished off by Aubameyang from close range, only for the Pole to stick out a leg and make a critical interception.

Ings celebrates the opener as he marked his return from injury in style

It was like Arsenal had flicked a switch and were suddenly transformed, but Saints hung in there, weathered the storm and finished the first half back on top.

Armstrong again eyed up the bottom corner from the inside-left position, forcing another save from Leno, but again the German stopper was powerless to keep out an Ings header.

This time the finish initially appeared less decisive. Redmond’s floated cross from the right looked rather more innocuous than Targett’s whipped delivery, and the ensuing header from Ings lacked the conviction of his earlier bullet.

But the striker was clever. Without the pace on the ball, accuracy was everything, and a looping header back across Leno proved just the tonic. 

Virtually in slow motion, the ball dropped almost apologetically into the far corner, and Saints had a half-time lead. 

Hasenhüttl’s opposite number Unai Emery, no stranger to an early change, made a substitution before the start of the second half for the 15th time this season in the Premier League, as Alexandre Lacazette replaced the injured Héctor Bellerín, prompting a switch to a back four.

Straightaway the visitors threatened to level things up. Aubameyang latched on to a cute pass around the corner and shot against the legs of McCarthy, before the ball ricocheted back off the striker and had to be cleared by the covering Vestergaard.

Not to be denied, Mkhitaryan’s luck was in when his tame-looking shot from distance struck Vestergaard to wrong-foot McCarthy, who could only watch it dribble into the opposite corner as he reacted to the initial strike. 

Austin was the hero as he headed home Long's cross to win the game late on

Then Aubameyang teed up Alex Iwobi, who shot over, but again Saints were not about to throw the towel in.

Laurent Koscielny’s foul on Redmond to warrant a yellow card proved one hit too many for the wounded winger, who hobbled off to be replaced by Shane Long, 

At the other end, McCarthy endured a nervous moment when his loose touch allowed Lacazette to steal in, but the keeper did just enough to diffuse the danger, before bravely diving at the feet of Aubameyang to pounce on Iwobi’s low cross.

There was drama with 15 minutes to go, as an engrossing contest threatened to take another twist in favour of the spirited hosts.

Yoshida met Targett’s left-wing corner with a thumping header brilliantly clawed out by Leno, only for Long to slide in the rebound from close range, prompting temporary pandemonium inside St Mary’s until assistant referee Sian Massey-Ellis raised her flag.

The Irishman was certainly offside from Yoshida’s initial header, but the ball then took an additional touch off an Arsenal defender before he forced it home. 

Neither team was prepared to settle for a share of the spoils, as Guendouzi’s deflected shot was almost turned in by the stretching Aubameyang right in front of goal.

Now at the stage where a draw may have been considered a point gained, Saints launched another attack, as Long raced in behind the Arsenal defence, waited for the run of his strike partner and delivered a perfect cross that tempted Leno, who could not reach it in front of the poaching Austin. 

In a state of shock, the Londoners pressed hard for an equaliser – their pursuit aided by five added minutes – but Hasenhüttl showed his faith in youth by introducing Tyreke Johnson for his first-team debut as Saints held on for a memorable victory.

Southampton

Head to Head Stats

Arsenal
  • Possession (%)
    34
    66
  • Shots
    12
    13
  • Shots on target
    7
    4
  • Corners
    4
    5
  • Passes Complete
    234
    544

Southampton

1
Alex McCarthy (GK)
3
Maya Yoshida
35
Jan Bednarek
4
Jannik Vestergaard
33
Matt Targett
23
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (C)
43
Yan Valery
14
Oriol Romeu
17
Stuart Armstrong
Tyreke Johnson (94′)
22
Nathan Redmond
Shane Long (63′)
9
Danny Ings
Charlie Austin (71′)
16
James Ward-Prowse
8
Steven Davis
6
Wesley Hoedt
51
Tyreke Johnson
28
Angus Gunn
7
Shane Long
10
Charlie Austin

Arsenal

19
Bernd Leno (GK)
34
Granit Xhaka
6
Laurent Koscielny (C)
12
Stephan Lichtsteiner
Ainsley Maitland-Niles (74′)
18
Nacho Monreal
29
Matteo Guendouzi
11
Lucas Torreira
2
Héctor Bellerín
Alexandre Lacazette (45′)
7
Henrikh Mkhitaryan
14
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
17
Alex Iwobi
Mesut Özil (70′)
10
Mesut Özil
4
Mohamed Elneny
9
Alexandre Lacazette
49
Eddie Nketiah
8
Aaron Ramsey
1
Petr Cech
15
Ainsley Maitland-Niles
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