Southampton ease the pressure on Ralph Hasenhuttl by beating Bournemouth
Southampton eased the mounting pressure on manager Ralph Hasenhuttl by climbing out of the Premier League’s relegation zone thanks to a nervy 1-0 win over Bournemouth.
Che Adams’ early header proved decisive at the Vitality Stadium as Saints ended a five-game winless run and kept a clean sheet for the first time in 17 top-flight games dating back to April.
Bournemouth dominated the second half but created little on the night before going down to a first defeat in seven games under the guidance of interim manager Gary O’Neil.
Southampton’s late win lifted them to 14th, two points and three places below their hosts, while also providing a welcome respite for under-fire boss Hasenhuttl.
Saints traveled to the south coast with Hasenhuttl under intense scrutiny after four defeats and a draw from their last five outings had plunged the club into the relegation zone.
The Austrian appeared agitated on the touchline during a hectic opening period in which possession often changed hands, but soon had reason to feel a little more relaxed.
Romain Perraud delivered an inviting first-time cross from the left after receiving the ball from Mohamed Elyounoussi and top scorer Adams got away from Marcos Senesi to deflect a header into the far corner to claim his first goal since August.
Hasenhuttl greeted the ninth-minute breakthrough by raising his arms, clenching his fists and roaring with joy in the direction of the jubilant traveling fans.
Bournemouth tried to equal a club record by extending their unbeaten run to seven top-flight games, but rarely threatened an equalizer before the break as the end-to-end entertainment continued.
Cherries midfielder Philip Billing forced a routine diving save from Saints keeper Gavin Bazunu moments after Joe Aribo’s close-range drive was denied at the other end.
Despite Southampton supporters chanting “there’s only one south coast derby” in reference to their rivalry with Portsmouth, there was plenty of animosity in the competition between the nearest neighbours.
Bournemouth defender Chris Mepham and Saints midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles were both booked in the closing minutes of the half after a fierce head-to-head clash sparked by a lunging challenge from the former.
The home side began the second half on top, with Southampton pinning back and dropping deeper as they looked for opportunities to counter.
Yet despite the Cherries’ territorial advantage, Saints keeper Bazunu went untested as headed attempts from Senesi and Dominic Solanke flew over.
Southampton survived impassioned penalty appeals in the 74th minute after a cross from substitute Junior Stanislas hit the arm of defender Mohammed Salisu.
Adams then had a golden chance to grab his second and put the result beyond doubt, but his effort from another Perraud center was blocked by Adam Smith.
Bournemouth were given five minutes of added time to chase an equaliser, but after Salisu broke off the line late on, they became the first team since Arsenal on 16 April to fail to score in a league game against Southampton.