Dean Smith says that every match is a cup final for Aston Villa. If they play like this next week, Manchester City and the League Cup engraver will have an easy afternoon.
Southampton was the strongest side in each department and the hosts should have packed this after 20 minutes. A shot count of 26-3 tells his own story.
The victory, sealed by the eighth-minute goal of Shane Long and the late strike by Stuart Armstrong, brings the Saints to an almost safe status, but plunges Villa into further uncertainty.
Stuart Armstrong’s late second sealed a 2-0 win for Southampton over Aston Villa
Shane Long celebrates this after scoring his ninth career goal against Villa in the eighth minute
MATCHING FACTS, TEAMLINEUPS AND LED TABLE
- League One
- League Two
- Scottish premiership
- Scottish Div 1
- Scottish Div 2
- Scottish Div 3
- Ligue 1
- Series a
- La Liga
Southampton (4-3-3): McCarthy, Ward-Prowse, Stephens, Bednarek, Bertrand, Hojbjerg, Smallbone (Romeu 80), Armstrong, Djenepo, Long (Adams 73), Ings (Obafemi 73)
Subs: Gunn, Valery, Vestergaard, Boufal
goals: Long (8)
Manager: Ralph Hasenhuttl
Aston Villa (3-4-3): Reina, Konsa (Hourihane 59), Mings, Hause, Guilbert, Luiz, Nakamba (Baston 81), Targett, El Ghazi (Trezeguet 28), Samatta, Grealish
Subs: Nyland, Elmohamady, English, Drinking water
booked: Konsa (45), Reina (71)
Head coach: Dean Smith
Referee: Craig Pawson
What they needed was a perfect Wembley warm-up. What they received was a chastening lesson in their infallibility.
Without the returning Tyrone Mings this would have been shameful. There was little to offend the visitors in a vanilla program – Sean Dyche took umbridge to an article in last weekend’s edition in which Burnley was named a long-ball side with weak points left – and home fans started with a good voice .
Former striker Charlie Austin talked about the Southampton believers in contemptuous terms (“You are damn fans, you don’t sing to get behind the team, only when they score, never when they need a boost,” the ex-Saint said in a subsequently deleted tweet), but they had a reasonable voice here.
But their side gave them something to cheer up. From the beginning, they were more hungry, smarter, better organized and able to attack at will.
Plus Villa has the worst defensive record in the Premier League – 51 and more – and their inability to do the basics while the ball is unnecessarily played over the goal and the dodgy distribution of Reina does little to calm the nerves.
It was a great opening volley from Southampton. Villa deliberately broke with their first possession, but barely came out of half for the next ten minutes.
Southampton had a large number of opportunities to add to their lead, but failed to take advantage
Corner followed Southampton corner, free kicks swept in through Ward-Prowse’s wand of a right shoe. Tyrone Mings, restored on the Villa side after an attack of tonsillitis, was vital, with high balls nodding away in abundance and deflecting an elongated Smallbone shot on a pole.
All in all, the Villa fans had a good voice. “We’re going to Wemberley,” they growl. But Southampton, who were looking forward to a final League Cup final three years ago, showed their pressure.
The electric Moussa Djenepo bamboo at the bottom left. Impossible to mark and control when he was in possession, it was he who pierced on Ryan Bertrand’s ball.
Shane Long gave Southampton a well-deserved lead after leading the ball in with his knee
At the byline he centered with Shane Long’s left thigh and bent past Pepe Reina to his nearby post. Villa spoke little for handball.
Hasenhuttl urged home fans after the goal. The Austrian has admitted that Southampton finds it difficult to play at St Mary’s, but the Saints should have had a much easier afternoon than the narrow score suggests.
When Villa was in possession, he couldn’t handle the pressure from Southampton, especially Ings was a threat and he should have defeated Reina when he was one-to-one in the box. Southampton kept the ball alive and Djenepo shot over.
Villa hardly helped itself. Reina’s poor clearance was only found by Hojbjerg, who nodded toward Ings.
A quick touch later and Djenepo was ready. But with both Mings and Reina in full length, the keeper made it with a desperate rescue.
Anwar El Ghazi was forced out of the injury after 28 minutes as Villa Woes continued
After a long delay for a slap in the head to Anwar El Ghazi – the Dutchman was replaced by Trezeguet – Villa took the sting out of play and delayed things. Another spontaneous break followed after Djenepo collided with Marvelous Nakamba.
Villabaas Dean Smith received a prompt from the stands. “Smith! Talk to your players, “the unsatisfied fan roared. A spontaneous huddle later and he was satisfied. “Well done Smith!”
As peace came closer, Villa got a foothold, largely though Grealish. Grealish fed Mbwana Samatta with a reverse pass, Samatta finished with aplomb. The ground fell silent. With good reason, he was one of the three wingers of Villa.
Jack Grealish cut a frustrated figure as he struggled to inspire Villa to create opportunities
Targett, who played against his former club, made a throw for Long for a new free kick from Ward-Prowse. A loose ball fell for Armstrong, whose shot was deflected from Nakamba.
A bursting Armstrong fed Long, who shot wide, and while Southampton dominated the break, they failed to increase their lead, despite Bertrand’s corner damage.
In increasingly windy conditions, Villa started the second half clearly, but fell into familiar pitfalls. With the worst defensive record in the Premier League – 51 and more – Ings came close with an improvised stab, after which Armstrong Reina rounded before shooting into the side net.
Then Hojbjerg started and almost ended an end-to-end movement. He robbed Grealish on the edge of his territory, shot undisturbed forward until halfway before releasing Long on the right.
The introduction of Conor Hourihane gave Villa more of a threat because they wanted to save a point
The Dane met his crotch with a crispy salvo from the edge of the Villa box, but Reina was equal to it. All that Southampton needed was a second goal, but after a strong block by Smallbone on Trezeguet’s shot and the introduction of Conor Hourihane for Ezri Konsa, Villa started threatening an unlikely equalizer.
But after Bertrand put Reina’s hands away, Hasenhuttl turned on his front pair at 73 minutes, with Michael Obafemi replacing Long and Che Adams for Ings. Still scoring since his summer move from Birmingham, Adams went a long way away and was then robbed by the desperate block of Kortney Hause.
Reina had a nervous moment when he came across a stab, but clearly managed to scrape himself
Five minutes to go, the game was still alive somehow. Grealish forced a corner. Everyone at Villa was awake. McCarthy struck out, then Adams – who was urged to shoot – found Armstrong with a cross-field ball.
For the purpose of his mercy, the Scotsman shot home from the edge of the penalty area to give Southampton the kisses they deserved.
Villa owner Dean Smith hopes for an improvement at Wembley next week