Southampton v Aston Villa
St.Mary's, Saturday 16th May 2015
> Mané scores hat trick in 2 minutes 56 seconds
> Fastest hat trick in Premier League history
> Long scores 2 and Pellè finishes the rout with the 6th goal
'St Mary's pulled down it's shutters for the final time this season with a performance that perfectly summarised the season; a positive start, some flashes of magic, but ultimately, disappointment.'
So well do I think I know Saints, that I took the liberty of writing this bullshit before kick-off. I was anticipating another disappointment against Villa, another underwhelming performance. Instead this great Saints team proved me entirely wrong by giving another type of performance which, I realise now, does indeed sum up this season; it was a performance of verve and excitement, with some great individual performances from players that have served us so brilliantly this season. Previous performances of similar brilliance against Sunderland, Arsenal, Utd, Everton and more might yet be rewarded. This day was late redemption for recent disappointments, and we now face the prospect of an unlikely 5th-placed finish. Just reward for a wonderful season.
The way Saints pressed from the start and blew away a resurgent Villa team shows that this team overwhelmingly deserves that 5th spot ahead of Spurs and Liverpool. Just look at our goal difference, and look at some of the individual performances on display.
Of course, there was Mané, who's hat-trick broke records. But also there was Shane Long, who showed his worth with both assists and goals. If only Ronald Koeman can harness consistency from Long next season. James Ward-Prowse, no longer a young dilettante despite his age, led from the top with his pressing, consistently causing mistakes in the Villa defence. And then there was Graziano, who finally got the goal he deserved, for a performance that enabled the brilliance of Long and Mané.
However, the early signs were that it would be a day of disappointment. Graziano had a perfectly good goal chalked off, and Benteke missed a straight-forward chance for Villa. But Saints continued doing the right things and then the Sadio Mané Show rolled into town. His 3 minute hat trick was the quickest in Premier League history. Shane Long capped his best performance in a Saints shirt with a goal of real brilliance, and even a late Benteke goal could not stop Saints from winning the game by half time.
If the first half was a last St Mary's swansong for players who have served Saints so well for most of the season, the second half showed us the promise of the future. Filip Djuričić replaced James Ward-Prowse and immediately displayed the skills that Saints have been missing in the last month. His ability to move the ball with pace and penetration was the architect of Saints' sixth goal. Graziano put the ball in the net and Mané claimed the assist, but it was a goal that should secure Filip Djuričić's future at Saints. Adding himself and Jay Rodriguez to Pellè, Mané, Long and Ward-Prowse leaves real hope for next season.
But first, an unlikely victory at the Etihad next week should secure the 5th place that Saints deserve. Away draws from tough fixtures for Liverpool and Spurs would not be enough to overhaul Southampton's overwhelming goal difference. If Saints have the energy to replicate this performance for one last time, you wouldn't bet against 3 points versus Man City and a European place. It would be the least that this wonderful Saints team deserve.
17th May 2015
12 Wanyama Booked
08 Davis (Yoshida - 72’ )
16 Ward-Prowse (Djuricic - 80’ )
19 Pellè (Elia - 85’ )
07 Bacuna (Lowton - 67’ )
15 Westwood Booked
28 N’Zogbia (Agbonlahor - 57’ )
40 Grealish (Sinclair - 82’ )
- Mané 13′, 14′, 16′
- Long 26′, 38′
- Pellè 81′
Aston Villa 1
- Benteke 45′
- Southampton 35%
- Aston Villa 65%
- Southampton 18
- Aston Villa 9
- Southampton 11
- Aston Villa 4
- Southampton 6
- Aston Villa 3
- Southampton 19
- Aston Villa 7
Referee : Robert Madley
Attendance : 31,636