SOFIANE BOUFAL came off the bench to score a 70-yard solo stunner then claimed: I’ve scored better..
The £16million Southampton midfielder had only been on the pitch for four minutes when he picked up the ball midway inside his own half.
Boufal scored a 70-yard solo winner for Southampton then claimed: I’ve scored better.
The Moroccan substitute’s 75th-minute goal was only his third goal for Southampton since signing from Lille last summer to ear a 1-0 win over West Brom at St Mary’s.
And he said: “It’s very special and the win was the most important thing. I scored one better in France but I’m so happy and I passed a long, difficult moment here. I showed the manger on this pitch I can play in this team.”
Boufal has only started one match for Saints this season – and this was his fourth substitute appearance.
And Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino added: “We are happy as we played a really good game against a top team.
“I got a group of players and most of them deserve to play. But the manager has to choose 11. I’m happy with the goal and performance.
“It was a reaction from him, I’m challenging him to be in the 11. But I’m happy with the goal.”
He surged forward, beat FIVE West Brom players before steering a fine shot past Ben Foster.
It was only the second goal by the Moroccan – who cost £16million from Lille last summer.
It was just what Saints deserved after a one-sided match on the South Coast.
For 90 minutes they totally bossed West Brom at St Mary’s, created chances aplenty but the game appeared to be limping towards a goalless draw.
It is never easy when you up against a team that showed hardly any ambition to get forward throughout.
Tony Pulis set his team up to defend with a 4-5-1 formation with Salomon Rondon all alone up front.
And, like Southampton, they have only managed seven goals so far this season too.
But his side were the first to venture forward with Gareth Barry’s long-range effort hitting the side-netting.
With Storm Brian approaching the South Coast, the game was played in a swirling wind.
Jonny Evans was walking gingerly after he fell on his back after an aerial duel with Shane Long.
But the Saints almost moved in front after 17 minutes when Ryan Bertrand crashed a 25-yard free-kick that took a deflection off Jonny Evans.
And they went close again after a lovely move moments later.
Bertrand again was involved – rampaging down the left flank before pulling the ball back to Dusan Tadic who shot straight at Ben Foster.
Foster managed to start after being a doubt for this game after injuring his knee while playing with his son in the garden at home.
How Saints did not net when Oriol Romeu turned following a corner and somehow shot wide from six yards.
But in the lead up to the incident Solomon Rondon handled but referee Graham Scott was probably right not to award a penalty as it seemed unintentional. Yet had it been given, it would have been hard to argue against it.
Virgil Van Dijk then smashed an effort from 35 yards that was not too far away from giving Southampton a spectacular opener.
It was one-way traffic and in a blistering break Manolo Gabbiadini raced away down the left and played in Long, who knocked the ball wide when one-on-one with Foster.
The Baggies were dealt a massive blow after 33 minutes when captain Evans had to hobble off injured after falling on his shoulder and had to be replaced by Allan Nyom.
Foster then pushed away a Maya Yoshida header from a Davis corner and then moments later sent an overhead effort high and wide from another flag kick.
Southampton continued on the front foot in the second half and Gabbiadini headed over from a Cedric cross.
Long then chanced his arm from 25 yards but he dragged his shot wide.
West Brom, though, should have moved into a shock lead themselves when Jay Rodriguez sprang the offside trap but mis-hit his shot horribly wide.
Gabbiadini then shot straight at Foster from the edge of the box with a powder-puff effort.
But controversy reared its head in the 71st minute.
Tadic managed to get through on-on-one with Foster, who made a great save.
But as Tadic tried to retrieve the loose ball, Foster pulled him back. It was a blatant penalty yet ref Scott waved play on.
Southampton continued to press and substitute Nathan Redmond curled a 25 yard effort just wide of Foster’s right post.
But then Boufal finally broke the deadlock with his late stunner.
And Saints almost grabbed a second right at the death when Boufal threaded a lovely pass through to fellow sub Charlie Austin, who was forced wide by Foster to the byline.
But he still managed to squeeze a shot from the tightest of angles which came back off a post.
INTERACTIVE STATS – CLICK on the categories to find out how the teams fared
INTERACTIVE LINE-UPS– CLICK on a player’s number below to see their stats
FACTS, STATS, GOALS AND LOLS
- Shane Long has now gone 26 games without scoring for club and country.
- There has been only 22 goals in 15 Premier League meetings between these two sides.
- Of all teams to have met in at least seven different Premier League campaigns, Southampton vs West Bromwich Albion has the lowest goals-per-game ratio in the competition (21 in 14 games – 1.5 per games).
- The Saints now won two home games this season.
- Four players over the age of 34 have appeared for West Brom this season – two more than any Prem rivals.
- After a winless run of 20 games in all competitions at Southampton, the Baggies have won two of their last five games against the Saints.