REPORT: Sunderland 0-1 Southampton
Southampton kept their unbeaten away run in the Barclays Premier League going as Dušan Tadić's second-half penalty gave them a well-deserved 1-0 victory at Sunderland.
The win was Saints' first at the Stadium of Light since 2003 and means they have now avoided defeat in each of their last eight matches.
Their unbeaten away start – a post-war record for the club – now features two victories and four draws, with Ronald Koeman's side remaining seventh in the table.
They dominated proceedings against the Black Cats, but had to wait until midway through the second half for the decisive moment, as Tadić converted from the spot after Ryan Bertrand had been tripped by Yann M'Vila.
Koeman made two changes from the side that beat Bournemouth last weekend, with James Ward-Prowse replacing the suspended Victor Wanyama, while Maya Yoshida came in for Cédric.
Yoshida’s inclusion was a tactical move on Koeman’s part, giving him the option of switching to three centre-backs if faced at any point by a 4-4-2 set-up from Sunderland.
As it was, Black Cats boss Sam Allardyce started with a 4-2-3-1 shape, with Steven Fletcher the lone attacker, meaning Yoshida slotted in on the right of a flat back-four.
Sadio Mané picked up an early booking for a late sliding tackle on Billy Jones, but it was the hosts who had to put in most of the defensive work in the opening half, with Saints on the front foot.
They fashioned a brilliant chance to take the lead in the 16th minute, as Tadić, playing wide left, nodded down a deep, angled ball into the path of Graziano Pellè. Tadić continued a diagonal run into the box and was then picked out in space by his teammate’s cut-back, but Costel Pantilimon turned away his low shot.
The Sunderland keeper again had to be called into action midway through the half, as a Tadić delivery from the left just eluded the head of Ward-Prowse, but bounced into the path of Mané 16 yards out. He hit the ball first-time with his left foot, but Pantilimon sprung brilliantly to his right to tip the shot away.
Sunderland’s threat was sporadic, but Saints still had to be wary, and Virgil van Dijk was particularly alert in the 43rd minute, putting in an important tackle on Fletcher, after he had chested down a Billy Jones cross in a dangerous position inside the area.
Seconds later, Adam Johnson was booked for tugging back Mané as he attempted to break.
Neither side was able to make a breakthrough in the first half, prompting Allardyce to withdraw Ola Toivonen and throw on Fabio Borini at the break.
It did little to alter the flow of the game, as Saints continued to look the more likely to score.
Pantilimon beat away Mané’s fierce effort from 25 yards in the 52nd minute, and then, seconds later, Mané swivelled to get on the end of a Pellè knockdown, but couldn’t stretch out far enough to reach the ball on the edge of the six-yard box.
José Fonte then went close with a flicked header from a Ward-Prowse corner, but DeAndre Yedlin on the back post bravely headed it clear under a challenge from Mané.
Saints did finally beat Pantilimon, on the hour mark, but even then it wasn’t enough, as Sebastian Coates scrambled back to make an unbelievable clearance off his line, after Steven Davis had fired a low strike towards the far bottom corner, having been picked out in space at the back post by a Tadić cross.
The breakthrough did finally arrive in the 69th minute, via the penalty spot.
Tadić’s short pass picked out the run of Bertrand down the inside left and he was tripped by a sliding M’Vila. Tadić took the resulting spot kick and made no mistake, slamming it low into the bottom corner to beat the dive of the tall frame of Pantilimon.
Sunderland twice went close in the moments after, with Maarten Stekelenburg having to beat away Borini’s shot at the near post, before Johnson curled a free-kick just over from 25 yards.
Koeman made two changes in quick succession, swapping Jordy Clasie and Mané for Oriol Romeu and Juanmi, while Sunderland had a big shout for handball turned down with five minutes left, after substitute Jack Rodwell had flicked a corner towards Yoshida.
Sunderland attempted to apply some more pressure in the dying stages, but Saints held firm for the win.
Sunderland (4-2-3-1): Costel Pantilimon; DeAndre Yedlin, Sebastian Coates, Younes Kaboul, Billy Jones; Yann M’Vila, Jordi Gomez (Jermain Defoe 74); Adam Johnson, Ola Toivonen (Fabio Borini 46), Duncan Watmore; Steven Fletcher (Jack Rodwell 70).
Unused substitutes: Vito Mannone, Patrick van Aanholt, Wes Brown, Jeremain Lens.
Booking: Johnson (44)
Southampton (4-1-4-1): Maarten Stekelenburg; Maya Yoshida, José Fonte, Virgil van Dijk, Ryan Bertrand; Jordy Clasie (Oriol Romeu 78); Sadio Mané (Juanmi 83), James Ward-Prowse, Steven Davis, Dušan Tadić (Steven Caulker 90); Graziano Pellè.
Unused substitutes: Kelvin Davis, Cédric, Cuco Martina, Ryan Seager.
Goal: Tadić (penalty 69)
Bookings: Mané (12), Bertrand (74), Pellè (90)
Referee: Michael Jones