Saints recorded their first league win of the season, with a resounding display over Aston Villa. The visitors had gone in 1-0 up at the break, but crumbled at the hands of a sparkling Southampton side. Nigel Adkins made the brave decision to drop Kelvin Davis for Paulo Gazzaniga in goal. Maya Yoshida was handed his first start in defence, as was Gaston Ramirez, who replaced James Ward-Prowse.
Saints made a fairly bright start to the game. Ramirez caught the eye early on, and was involved in some good interchanges with Rickie Lambert. Adkins started with Puncheon on the right of midfield, Lallana on the left with Ramirez through the middle behind Lambert. The front four rotated positions throughout, giving Saints a great deal of fluidity. The hosts had the ball in the Villa half for extended periods, but initially struggled in the final third. There were very few clear cut chances for either side in the first half. Aston Villa looked dangerous on the break at times, but Saints were a lot more assured at the back. The home side played some good stuff, but lacked that cutting edge where it mattered. Villa came into the game more as the half progressed, and opened the scoring on 36 minutes. Saints failed to clear a deep cross from the left, before Stephen Ireland fired the ball into the ground on the edge of the area. Darren Bent subsequently tapped in from close range. It was a sloppy goal to concede in what had been an otherwise solid defensive display. Saints looked nervy in possession after that, with a number of players misplacing simple passes before the referee blew for half-time.
Saints looked much improved after the re-start, with Nathaniel Clyne moving to left-back, replacing Danny Fox, who was subbed for Frazer Richardson. Villa created a few opportunities, with Bent firing a shot straight at Gazzaniga from a difficult angle. Saints took control of the game in the final 30 minutes. The fluency of the team was a joy to behold at times. Lambert levelled things up on 58 minutes, finishing Lallanaís cross. Saints were rampant throughout the next half-hour, cutting through the Villa defence with ease. On 64 minutes Ramirez brilliantly flicked on Lambertís pass straight into the path of Nathaniel Clyne, who had made a bursting run forward. The former Palace forward found the net to give Saints a 2-1 lead, before celebrating in the crowd. On 72 minutes it was 3-1. Jason Puncheon cut inside from the left, before firing into the top corner of the net. Adkins brought on Emmanuel Mayuka in the final 15 minutes, with the Zambian creating problems for the Villa back-line with his pace. He had a few efforts on goal, but couldnít quite find the net. He did have a role in the fourth however. Mayuka looked to latch onto a through ball before being brought down by Villa keeper Brad Guzan. Lambert made no mistake from the spot, giving Saints an emphatic win.
What a feeling it is to win again. It looked like it might not happen for us after the first goal went in. Saints were much improved in the second half however, displaying the type of football that we were synonymous with for much of last season. We look to have great attacking options at present. Gaston Ramirez looks capable of unlocking any defence. At the other end the back-four looked much improved. The team as a whole defended very well for the most part. It all bodes well for the future. Saints will come up against plenty of better teams, but thereís plenty we can take from this game.
Not long after the match Saints confirmed the signing of Artur Boruc on a free transfer. The Polish keeper signs on a deal until the end of the campaign, having been released by Fiorentina in the summer. Boruc spent five years with Celtic between 2005-2010. Youíve got to believe that Kelvinís playing days are numbered now. The signing would also suggest Gazzaniga is not ready for regular football just yet.
Gazzaniga: 6. Didnít have a lot to do either side of the goal. Distribution was decent. Clever in shielding the ball out
Clyne: 8. Strong on both the left and right side. Devastating going forward. Deserved the goal
Fonte: 7. One of his best display of the season. Didnít do a lot wrong. Good passing
Yoshida: 7. A few minor errors, but looks to have the making of a very good player. Brought on air of calm to proceedings
Fox: 6. Started very well, but faded a bit towards the end of the first half.
Schneiderlin: 7. Swept everything up in front of the defence, also providing quality going forward
Davis: 8. Always looking to receive the ball. A great box to box display
Puncheon: 8. Created openings from absolutely nothing. Worked incredibly hard as always
Ramirez: 8. A class act. Vision and movement incredible. Superb pass for the third goal
Lallana: 8. Ran his heart out. Some great skill on show as always. Looked dangerous throughout
Lambert: 8. Made a slow start to the game, but played a key role in the win. Involved in all four goals. Terrific movement
Richardson: 7. A very accomplished display.
Mayuka: 7. Gave Villa the runaround in the final stages of the game. Did well to win the penalty
Ward-Prowse: Tidy 10 minute cameo