Sunday 24 February 2019

Saints' prayers answered but it's hell for Swansea

Premier League: Swansea 0 Southampton 1

Winner: Manolo Gabbiadini
Winner: Manolo Gabbiadini

Southampton took a huge step towards safety as a 1-0 win at Swansea inched their Welsh rivals towards the Premier League trapdoor and relegated West Brom into the bargain.

After 72 minutes of frenetic action, substitute Manolo Gabbiadini provided the decisive moment when he reacted quickest to Charlie Austin's parried shot in a crowded goalmouth.

Gabbiadini had only been on the pitch for four minutes and it was only his fifth goal of a difficult season for the Italian.

West Brom needed a draw to stay alive until the final game, but their bid under caretaker manager Darren Moore is over.

Southampton had looked doomed when Mark Hughes came in to replace the sacked Mauricio Pellegrino in March.

But seven points from three games has given Saints a huge chance to escape the drop on the final day this weekend, even if their last game is at home against Manchester City.

Southampton now have 36 points - three more than Swansea, who entertain relegated Stoke on Sunday. The Saints' goal difference is also nine better than Swansea's, so they will be safe barring a disaster.

There was tension in the air at kick-off with the stakes so high and that anxiety soon transferred to the pitch.

Passes were misplaced with almost embarrassing frequency and no-one was able to provide composure to a contest played with fast-forward button on.

The home crowd demanded a penalty when the ball struck Wesley Hoedt's arm, but the Saints defender was on the ground and contact was certainly not intentional.

Swansea were sloppy in possession and almost architects of their own downfall when Ki Sung-yueng hesitated to allow Austin to fire wide.

Swansea applied some set-piece pressure with Sam Clucas diverting King's cross wide, but it was Saints who again threatened before the break.

Cedric Soares centred and Austin struck his volley but Fabianski was perfectly positioned to make the save look easy.

Jordan Ayew had been Swansea's stand-out performer and he forced McCarthy into an excellent save from 20 yards within two minutes of the re-start.

Both managers made substitutions as Tammy Abraham was sent on for Swansea and Shane Long and Gabbiadini for Southampton.

Abraham brought a save from McCarthy, but it was Gabbiadini's goalmouth instinct that proved crucial as he was the first to react when Fabianski pushed out Austin's shot.

Swansea huffed and puffed for an opening after that, but their seven-season stay in the Premier League is now in real jeopardy.

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