Southampton 2-1 Watford: I suffer for fans, players and owner – Sanchez Flores

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Updated: 27/03/2023


James Ward-Prowse's superb free-kick earned Southampton a precious three points at home to Watford

Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores said he “suffers” for the fans, players and owner after defeat at fellow strugglers Southampton.

The Saints came from behind to win with late goals from Danny Ings and James Ward-Prowse, easing the pressure on their own boss Ralph Hasenhüttl and leaving the Hornets bottom of the Premier League.

Sanchez Flores said: “I suffer for the fans, I suffer for the players and I suffer for the owner.

“It's a difficult time for our fans after we had the feeling we were in the right way.

“Little by little the circumstances in the second half they change. They're a very good team also and they have a little change and finally the score was against us again.

“One goal for us now is a tragedy, even when we are in control of the match it's a tragedy.”

He added: “I came here and I'm trying and fighting a lot, although the circumstances are bad for us.”

The hosts appeared set for a damaging defeat until Ings bundled home Sofiane Boufal's cross with 12 minutes remaining.

Ward-Prowse then found the top corner with a superb free-kick five minutes later to complete the turnaround.

Ismaila Sarr had given the Hornets a deserved lead in the first half, capitalising on poor defending by Jack Stephens before lifting the ball beyond Alex McCarthy for his first Premier League goal.

Southampton's first league win since September moves them above Norwich and to within two points of safety, while Watford remain six points adrift of 17th place.

Second-half substitutions inspire Saints

Only Southampton's profligacy prevented them from leaving Arsenal's Emirates Stadium with all three points last weekend.

Hasenhüttl's side managed 21 shots against the Gunners in north London, but they started anxiously against the Hornets and almost fell behind within the first two minutes.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's stray back-pass fell straight into the path of Sarr, who could only drill his shot into the arms of McCarthy.

Saints remained nervous in possession as the half wore on with Stephens bundling an attempted clearance into the path of Sarr, allowing the Senegal forward to race clear and stroke home the opener.

Boos greeted Michael Oliver's half-time whistle, but there was little change to the pattern of play until the introductions of Boufal and Shane Long 13 minutes into the second half.

Republic of Ireland forward Long twice struck the woodwork, seeing his header tipped on to the crossbar by Ben Foster before scuffing another shot against the post from close range.

Ings eventually restored parity after fine work by Boufal on the right as he worked his way into the box with some excellent footwork, before Ward-Prowse curled a magnificent free-kick beyond Foster as Southampton won after trailing at half-time for only the second time in 44 league matches.

Hornets made to rue missed opportunities

Having admitted he was under pressure in the build-up to this game, Flores has now picked up just seven points from a possible 30 since replacing Javi Gracia as head coach in September.

Watford's haul of eight points after 14 games is also their worst ever return at this stage of a Premier League campaign.

The Hornets were much the better side in the early stages, restricting their hosts to efforts from distance while attacking with purpose at the other end.

Sarr, who was handed his third Premier League start of the season in place of Andre Gray, was a constant threat to the home defence, easily shrugging off Stephens before lifting the ball confidently over McCarthy for the opener.

The summer signing went close to doubling his tally either side of half-time, volleying straight at McCarthy from close range in the first half before sending a curling effort over the crossbar in the second.

Flores will feel his team should have been out of sight by that stage, but there appeared little danger of Watford surrendering their narrow lead as the visitors continued to hold firm.

That all changed in the final quarter of an hour, however, as Southampton's late pressure finally told.

Man of the match – James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)

James Ward-Prowse not only earned Saints a precious three points with his trademark free-kick, he also attempted more shots (three) than any of his team-mates at St Mary's

Over-reliant on Ings and Ward-Prowse? – the stats

  • Southampton ended a run of eight Premier League games without a win (D2 L6).
  • Watford have registered just one win in their past 18 Premier League games, drawing six and losing 11.
  • Watford's Sarr is the 27th Senegalese player to score in the Premier League, with only Nigeria boasting more different scorers (31) among African nations.
  • Ings has netted seven of Southampton's 15 Premier League goals this season, (46.7%), the highest proportion of a side's goals by a player in the competition in 2019-20.
  • Each of Southampton's last 10 Premier League goals has been scored by either Ings (6) or Ward-Prowse (4).
  • Only Matt le Tissier (7) has scored more direct free-kick goals for Southampton in the Premier League than Ward-Prowse (5).

‘Let's do it again on Wednesday' – what the managers said

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhüttl, speaking to Match of the Day: “The first half was a completely different performance to last weekend and it was unbelievable it could happen.

“At half-time, we were very critical and in the second half it was a good reaction. After 10 minutes we made two subs and they had a big impact in the game and it was a big big win for us.

“We have not had one good start so far this season. Now we have to push it away and our crowd deserve it. Let's do it again on Wednesday [when they host Norwich].”

Watford head coach Quique Sanchez Flores, speaking to Match of the Day: “At half-time we had the feel that we were in a match we wanted. But they went up another level and we didn't do the same.”

On his future: “I cannot control it. When we lose we can say sorry to the fans, the owners and players, but we have the same feeling, we want to fight.”

What's next?

Southampton host Norwich City in another key game at the bottom of the Premier League on Wednesday, 4 December (kick-off 19:30 GMT), while Watford travel to high-flying Leicester City at the same time.

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