Southampton needed this game badly. A loss, could have really hurt their chances of European competition. Guess who arrived on the scene? None other than the man who shot us up the Premier League last season in Graziano Pelle.
The Italian scored twice in the first half which proved to be all that was needed for a win. His first goal was a headed ball that came from a Steven Davis corner, the second from a beautiful ground-ball in from Dusan Tadic.
Dusan Tadic had a solid game, however, a mistake late in the first half almost proved costly. Dusan Tadic received the ball from Shane Long in the box, really only needing to put a shot on goal. Instead, Tadic tried to out dribble everyone, and ended up not getting a shot off at all. I could've described it in a more direct way, like "it was bad," but I'm feeling pretty good today.
Early in the second half, Stoke pulled a goal back through Marko Arnautovic's 52nd minute flick into the goal via a quality ball from Afellay. From there, the game turned. Stoke's supporters began to rise in volume, and the momentum swung in Stoke's favor. Southampton was able to neutralize and earn the three points, however.
Virgil Van Dijk and the rest of the backline were very good today. Many, including myself, were worried about the absence of captain Jose Fonte, but the defense proved to be fine. While Stoke had 61% possession, they only managed 2 shots on goal. Fraser Forster only needed one save today.
The fouls were about even, Stoke with 13 and Saints with 12. Three yellow cards were issued by Lee Mason, however his fourth card issued was a red card for substitute Sadio Mane. In live action, it appeared that Mane elbowed Erik Pieters in the face, but in the replay, he did not. The challenge didn't warrant a red card, and hardly even a yellow. Ronald Koeman has confirmed that the club will appeal the red.
That wasn't the only mistake Lee Mason made. Dusan Tadic was brought down in the box, which was missed by Mason and his staff. Tadic slipped through two defenders and past Butland. Butland took Tadic down with a sliding tackle in the box but no call was given. A poor decision from Mason which could've proved bad for Saints as well.
All in all, Southampton's players showed life when they were needed the most. A 2-1 win moves Saints into 7th, above Liverpool on goal difference but with two games in hand on Southampton. European qualification will be tough this season now, however, if today showed anything, it's that this team has the resilience to get that task done.
Southampton's next game is against Liverpool on March 20th, at St. Mary's.