Southampton fell to their eighth home loss of the season against buoyant Brentford as a simple Ivan Toney tap-in and a late Yoane Wissa strike were enough to earn a 2-0 victory at a rain-soaked St Mary’s.
The weather reflected the sombre mood on another damaging night for Ruben Selles’ side, who only registered one lacklustre shot on target, and were reminiscent of a team blighted by relegation fear.
Brentford, recording their third away win of the Premier League season, found the net once in each half to ensure maximum points, with Toney opening the scoring in the 32nd minute and Wissa safeguarding the win with a breakaway goal in second-half stoppage time.
Since the World Cup restart, Thomas Frank’s charges have picked up the fourth-most points in the division (22) and have lost fewer games than any other side.
Southampton’s home record, comparatively, continues to be the worst in the league, in spite of a much-improved display which included a season-high 563 passes and a dominant 67 per cent share of the possession, as they missed yet another chance to break free of the relegation zone.
“We controlled the game as we want…but in some situations we need to demand more,” manager Selles conceded post-match.
Brentford, who suffered their first defeat in 12 Premier League games at the weekend, move above Fulham into eighth in the table – one point shy of Brighton and Liverpool.
- Southampton: Ruben Selles made two changes from a valiant draw at Old Trafford, swapping Romeo Lavia and Theo Walcott for Ibrahima Diallo and Moi Elyounoussi respectivley.
- Brentford: Thomas Frank made a like for like change with Mikkel Damsgaard dropping down to the bench to allow for a first start for Kevin Schade.
How Saints stumbled against clinical Brentford
Brentford are looking up. Southampton are peering over their shoulder. That much was evident.
Talisman Toney was on target yet again to gives the Bees’ slim hopes of a European spot a boost, poking the ball into the net from close range in the 32nd minute for his 16th goal of an already impressive season.
The corner routine, one of a few set-piece variations Brentford tried, saw Christian Norgaard make a darting run to the front post to flick Bryan Mbeumo’s delivery into the path of Toney, who used a combination of muscle and sheer determination to beat Kyle Walker-Peters to the ball.
The forward continues to excite manager Frank, who ahead of the game said Toney was capable of partnering Harry Kane for England. Indeed, since the start of last season, only Kane (37), Mohamed Salah (34) and Son Heung-Min (29) have contributed more top-flight goals than the in-form Brentford forward.
“Ivan has done more than enough to be giving Gareth a headache in a positive way,” Frank reaffirmed after Toney’s latest reminder, less than 24 hours before Gareth Southgate is due to announce his squad for March’s internationals.
The hosts went closest with their only shot on target immediately after the restart, as Waker-Peters drove into the box at pace before cutting the ball back to Che Adams, but Aaron Hickey was smartly placed to turn the shot off the line.
Tempers frayed late on, stemming from a sense of desperation from the home side, before Brentford killed the tie with a superb second as Wissa sprung the offside trap, latched onto a clever Toney touch, and slotted the ball emphatically beyond Gavin Bazunu.
Southampton: Bazunu (6), Walker-Peters (6), Bednarek (5), Bella-Kotchap (6), Perraud (6), Ward-Prowse (6), Diallo (5), Elyounoussi (5), Alcaraz (6), Sulemana (6), Adams (5).
Subs: Lavia (5), Walcott (4), Bree (5), Onuachu (5).
Brentford: Raya (7), Henry (6), Mee (7), Pinnock (6), Hickey (7), Jensen (7), Norgaard (7), Janelt (7), Mbeumo (7), Toney (9), Schade (7).
Subs: Onyeka (6), Wissa (7), Jansson (6), Damsgaard (6).
Player of the match: Ivan Toney
Frank delighted with Brentford’s ‘bounce back mentality’
Brentford manager Thomas Frank:
“I felt the bounce back mentality. I thought we started the game very well and it was done well, with high pressure. We created chances at set-pieces, very dangerous there.
“Second half it got scrappy. Maybe in a season you might play seven or eight perfect games then there are 20 where you can do something better.
“There are some where you really need to dig in, today we did that very well. Ivan got a goal and an assist. There was space to run into.
“We are very pleased with the away win and clean sheet. We looked solid. I’m very pleased that we return to winning ways.”
Selles: We need to work on our principles
Southampton manager Ruben Selles:
“It is frustrating because the game was in details. We conceded a goal from a set-play. We controlled the game as we want, in possession with high pressure, we were dominant. But in some situations we need to demand more.
“We need to start to work better on our principles to score goals. We didn’t have the quality in the final third to make the difference. In the end we’re chasing and we concede the second one.
“We adjust our game place [in the second half], but we lost our momentum. We weren’t really clear with our principles so we need to analyse and move onto the next one.
“We knew from the moment we took the team it’s going to be hard. We have to stick with the plan. When there are games every three days you have to learn through the games and today we learned the hardest way possible.”
Analysis: Toney hard to overlook
Sky Sports’ Laura Hunter:
What more can Ivan Toney do to catch Gareth Southgate’s eye? Certainly, he is Brentford’s trump card, adding another strike and an assist to his mounting plethora of goal contributions this term. There exists no hint of second-season syndrome with the Bees – clearly comfortable in their surroundings – but you wonder if that statement would ring true in the absence of Toney.
His influence on this side is somewhat endearing – akin to a loveable rogue. He continues to excel despite the threat of a prolonged ban for alleged betting breaches hanging over him. “A big character, a big player for us,” Thomas Frank remarked when questioned about Toney’s inevitable impact.
He leads from the front, in every sense, acting as the trigger when Brentford ravage and press opponents, when they fall back into a compact shape, and particularly when they launch a hasty counter-attack. You can’t teach that, it’s instinctive, summed up neatly by the forward’s intelligent flick into Yoane Wissa which wrapped up the game late on. He makes a compelling case. “A fantastic player to work with,” Frank summarised. Perhaps, in time, Southgate might feel the same way.
Opta: Toney goes from strength to strength
- Brentford have scored 18 goals via set pieces in the Premier League this season, the most of any side. Four of their last seven goals in the competition have come from set pieces (2x corners, 1x free-kick, 1x penalty).
- Brentford’s Ivan Toney has now scored against 17 of the 21 teams he has faced in the Premier League, with tonight his first against Southampton.
- Ruben Selles’ five Premier League games in charge of Southampton have seen just five goals scored (two for, three against), with the Saints conceding more tonight (two) than in their first four under him (one).
Brentford are next in action on Saturday March 18, hosting Leicester City, kick-off 3pm, while struggling Southampton have a chance to improve their league standing at home to Tottenham on the same day, which is also a 3pm kick-off.