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Southampton 2 - Arsenal 0: Match Report

A crucial win for The Saints as they defeat a direct rival for a top four spot.

Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Southampton edged out Arsenal for all three points in a crucial match in the race for a top four spot in the Premier League new year's day fixture.

Ronald Koeman made three changes from the starting XI against Chelsea, Matt Targett and Maya Yoshida drops to the bench with Ryan Bertrand and Florin Gardos assuming their place, while James Ward-Prowse starts in place of the suspended Morgan Schneiderlin.

Arsène Wenger also made three changes from the side that defeated West Ham, Kieran Gibbs starts at left back over Nacho Monreal who was dropped to the bench, Mathieu Flamini and Danny Welbeck both missed out on the squad and was replaced by Calum Chambers and Tomas Rosicky respectively.

The first chance of the match fell to Southampton, Dušan Tadić got the better of Per Mertesacker and lobbed the ball for Graziano Pellè, his header just inches wide with Wojciech Szczesny rooted in his spot.

Arsenal though replied straightaway with Alexis Sánchez testing Fraser Forster from outside the penalty area but Forster was equal to it.

Arsenal nearly just seconds before the 20th minute, but Santi Cazorla's shot following Sánchez cutback was saved by Forster.

Seven minutes later, it was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who nearly opened the scoring. Cazorla maneuvered his way into a crossing position which found Chamberlain but his volleyed attempt did not find the target.

Eventually the opening goal came and it was The Saints who strikes first.

Sadio Mané latched on to a long ball with Szczesny rushing out to stop him, but Mané kept control of the ball and as Szczesny retreats back to his goal, the Senegalese curled a beautiful effort that found its way into the net despite Mertesacker's last ditch attempt to stop it.

Southampton nearly doubled their lead five minutes from halftime, but Ward-Prowse's shot following Mané's cutback was denied by Szczesny, Pellè then hit the rebound with an acrobatic effort which was over the bar. At halftime, the host led by one goal to nil.

The first ten minutes saw Arsenal dominating the proceedings in search of an equalizer and they nearly had it in the 55th minute. Sánchez got on the end of a low cross, but Forster managed to get a big hand on his shot from inside the box.

That proved to be a valuable save as Southampton went on the other end and doubled their lead.

Victor Wanyama lobbed the ball for Steven Davis who crossed it into the area, the ball ricochet of Mathieu Debuchy and Szczesny, which allowed Tadić to stab home from close range.

The Serbian winger then nearly added a second just moments later, but his shot from the edge of the area curled off target.

At the hour mark, Southampton could've had a third goal. A neat combination between Bertrand and Tadić saw the former sent a low cross which Pellè struck against the post, the rebound fell kindly for Ward-Prowse but he put his attempt over the bar.

Five minutes later, another glorious chance went begging. This time, a poor back pass saw Tadić nick the ball off Szczesny, Pellè then struck the ball but Debuchy heads it off the line.

That was followed by a moment of controversy as Gardos brought down Sánchez on the edge of the area but despite suggestion that he was the last man, the referee only reached for a yellow card. Sánchez then put the subsequent free kick just over the bar.

Despite The Gunners' best attempt to claw their way back into the game, The Saints held firm and grabbed all three points as they continue to stake their claim for a top four spot.