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5 decisive games in Southampton’s season

The last 11 years have been some of the most enjoyable in Southampton’s history.

Having been in League One as recently as 2011, the Saints built a vibrant side that won the hearts and minds of supporters around the world.

They played some beautiful football, finished as high as sixth in the Premier League, reached a Carabao Cup final and qualified for Europe on two occasions.

Some of the game’s biggest names, such as Sadio Mane, Virgil van Dijk and Mauricio Pochettino, made their names during this period at St Mary’s.

They were a true inspiration to the sides in the English Football League.

Alas, that golden age is now long gone, and they have been relegated back to the Championship after a long and painful season. Here are five defining games from their campaign.

Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 Southampton

It’s the opening game of the season, and Southampton couldn’t have made a much better start. After just 12 minutes, James Ward-Prowse excellently volleyed in from Moussa Djenepo’s cross to give the visitors a shock lead.

Unfortunately for the Saints, this proved to be the peak of their season. Nine minutes later, Ryan Sessegnon headed in from Dejan Kulusevski’s cross, and Eric Dier made it 2-1 shortly afterwards.

And within 20 minutes of the restart, Tottenham Hotspur had comfortably wrapped up the three points. Mohammed Salisu inadvertently turned a cross into his own net, and Kulusevski grabbed one for himself to seal a resounding victory.

Spurs away is a tough opening fixture, but the manner of the defeat raised plenty of concerns for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men.

Southampton 1-4 Newcastle United

Hasenhuttl had had some tough times at St Mary’s, but the club often trusted him to turn things around. However, the board’s patience ran out in November.

The Austrian led his side into his final game in charge at home to Newcastle United. The Magpies took the lead late in the first half through Miguel Almiron, and quickfire goals from Chris Wood and Joe Willock after the break put them into an unassailable position.

Romain Perraud bagged a consolation, but any joy from this was short-lived. Just two minutes later, Bruno Guimaraes expertly curled home a fourth to quickly dash any whispers of a comeback.

The following day, Hasenhuttl was dismissed and replaced by Luton Town’s Nathan Jones. He was…interesting.

Southampton 1-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Over the years, we’ve heard some wonderfully weird quotes in press conferences and interviews. Whether it be Jose Mourinho’s ‘special one’ comment or Cristiano Ronaldo calling himself a strawberry.

There are a few things that Mourinho and Ronaldo have in common – they’re both Portuguese, they both worked at Real Madrid and Manchester United and were both absolutely sensational in their prime. The latter is the key reason why they were able to get away with such strangeness.

Jones doesn’t quite have the talent to justify calling himself ‘the fittest human being in history’. Southampton bosses got sick of him after only eight league games, having picked up just three points in that run.

The last of that eight against Wolverhampton Wanderers really epitomised the weakness in his team. They started well, taking the lead through Carlos Alcaraz.

And midway through the first half, they were handed a huge opportunity when Mario Lemina was shown a second yellow card.

A goal up, a man up, at home to a fellow relegation rival. Anything less than three points is unacceptable.

However, the Saints ended empty-handed. An own goal by Jan Bednarek drew Wolves level, and Joao Gomes struck late on his debut to claim the win.

Jones was sacked shortly afterwards, sealing his fate as one of the most bizarre appointments in Premier League history.

Although he was able to mastermind a Carabao Cup victory over Manchester City – a result which may prevent Pep Guardiola’s side from winning the quadruple. Silver linings.

Arsenal 3-3 Southampton

Ruben Selles was the third man to take charge of the south coast club this term, but he was also unable to turn their fortunes around.

After taking eight points from nine games, the Spaniard looked to be in real trouble when his side travelled to the Emirates Stadium to face top-of-the-table Arsenal.

However, form went out of the window as the away side raced into a two-goal lead. Carlos Alcaraz capitalised on an Aaron Ramsdale error to open the scoring, and Theo Walcott bagged against his former club to make it two.

When Gabriel Martinelli swiftly pulled one back, many expected the Gunners to take control. But Southampton weathered the storm and restored their two-goal advantage in the second half through Duje Caleta-Car.

The north Londoners piled on the pressure, desperately searching for a way back into the game. And they found their lifeline in the 88th minute when Martin Odegaard finished from distance.

And just moments later, it was level when Bukayo Saka swept home on the rebound. Arsenal pushed hard for a dramatic winner but had to settle for a point.

On the surface, this was a good result for Southampton – they would have gladly taken a draw before the game.

But a win would have been huge for their survival push, and they will have been disappointed not to have seen it out.

Nottingham Forest 4-3 Southampton

The draw at Arsenal was followed by consecutive defeats against Bournemouth and Newcastle.

Southampton went into a relegation six-pointer against Nottingham Forest, knowing that a point likely wouldn’t be enough, and a defeat would almost certainly seal their fate.

Things couldn’t have started much worse for the Saints. After 20 minutes, the Reds were two up thanks to a brace by Taiwo Awoniyi. Alcaraz grabbed one back, but a Morgan Gibbs-White penalty made it 3-1 just before half-time.

Shortly after the break, Lyanco netted to give Southampton some hope. But that promise was soon put to an end when Danilo got on the scoresheet to restore Forest’s two-goal lead. James Ward-Prowse struck an injury-time penalty, but this was too little too late.

Southampton still had a mathematical chance of survival, but this was the game that effectively ended it. Fulham put the final nail in the coffin a week later.

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