Cucho Hernandez’s early double consigned Southampton to their third Premier League defeat on the bounce, boosting Watford’s survival hopes in the process with a 2-1 victory at St Mary’s.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Saints are now in their worst run of form since November when they suffered consecutive defeats to Liverpool and Norwich City.
Southampton are looking starkly different to the team that were riding high in February but Watford won’t mind.
Roy Hodgson’s Hornets got off to a flyer when Hernandez seized on a glorious opportunity to make it 1-0 to the away side.
A sloppy back-pass from the usually-reliable Mohammed Salisu left Fraser Forster exposed and Hernendez seized on that chance with a fine finish on 14 minutes.
The Colombian then double his team’s lead when he volleyed in Juraj Kucka’s cross just after the half hour mark.
Mohamed Elyounoussi brought Saints back into the game shortly before half-time, finishing off a set piece that saw James Ward-Prowse’s ball nodded on by Che Adams.
But that was where the goals stopped for Saints in a disappointing performance.
Southampton huffed and puffed to try and break down the Watford defence but seldom created any chances.
Ward-Prowse went close with a whipped free-kick late on in the game, while there was a brief pause for VAR to check on a potential penalty after Christian Kabasele handled the ball in the Watford penalty area. VAR rightly called it to not be a penalty and Saints’ opportunity to level the scoreline faded.
Watford remain in the Premier League relegation zone after this much-needed win, but are now level on points with Everton in 17th place. The Toffees have three games in hand, however.
Southampton (4-4-2): Forster; Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Salisu, Perraud; S. Armstrong, Romeu (Redmond 74’), Ward-Prowse, Elyounoussi; Smallbone (Broja 45’ - Long 90+4’), Adams
Unused subs: Caballero (GK), A. Armstrong, Stephens, Diallo, Walcott, Valery
Goals: Elyounoussi (45’)
Bookings: Bednarek, Perraud, Romeu
Watford (4-3-3): Foster; Femenia (Cathcart 90+1’), Kabasele, Samir, Kamara; Sissoko, Louza, Kucka; Hernandez (Sema 90+7’), Joao Pedro, Dennis (King 87’)
Unused subs: Bachmann, Troost-Ekong, Cleverley, Masina, Kalu, Kayembe
Goals: Hernandez (14’, 34’)
Bookings: Sissoko, Hernandez