Mane strike sends Saints second

Published: Saturday 25th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Southampton’s incredible start to the season continued against Stoke as Sadio Mane’s strike propelled them back to second in the Barclays Premier League.

It was never going to be a repeat of the 8-0 annihilation dished out to Sunderland, but another fine team display saw Saints celebrating a fourth consecutive win at St Mary’s.

Mane’s first-half strike proved the difference as Stoke were seen off 1-0, making this a better start than the 1983/84 season when Southampton finished the campaign second.

In truth, had it not been for poor finishing, Ronald Koeman’s men would have won by a much grander scoreline.

The Potters struggled to contain the attacking triumvirate of Mane, Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadic, with the latter setting up Morgan Schneiderlin to rattle the crossbar.

Saints were denied by the goal-frame again soon after when a Pelle strike came back off the post, although Mane superbly turned home the rebound – the summer signing’s first goal for the club, having seen last week’s eighth against Sunderland harshly stripped off him.

Pelle saw a header come off the bar early in a much tighter second half, in which English football’s tightest defence held out for another clean sheet against a Stoke side they will face again in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday.

Koeman’s men will travel to the Potteries buoyed by another victory – a result which had looked likely from the outset.

Mane was the only change to the side that faced Sunderland and made a lively start, with Pelle just unable to turn home his cross-shot at the far post.

Steven Davis also had an effort as Saints looked to make an early breakthrough, but it was far from one-way traffic and Fraser Forster was relieved to see a sloppy clearance deflect wide off Steven Nzonzi.

Former Southampton striker Peter Crouch directed over the Frenchman’s cross as the visitors continued to press, with Victor Moses showing good skill to wriggle past several defenders before being crowded out.

At the other end, Saints’ own African winger was causing havoc, with Mane giving Phil Bardsley a torrid time.

Pelle could only direct into the side-netting when the Senegal international beat the right-back to the byline, although he made amends by denying Mane a goalscoring opportunity after the Italy international shot wide under pressure.

Tadic’s fine pass set up that chance on what was proving another impressive display for Saints, which he would have capped with another goal was it not for a fine, low save by Asmir Begovic.

The Serbian, fresh from providing a record-equalling four assists last week, then laid off for Schneiderlin, who rattled the crossbar from the edge of the box as Saints looked for an opener which arrived in the 33rd minute.

Pelle saw an impressive swivelled shot come back off the post, but Mane did brilliantly to fire home the rebound off the underside of the bar

Try as they might, Saints were unable to find a second before half-time, from which they returned strongly as Pelle again hit the woodwork with a powerful header from a Tadic cross.

Mark Hughes brought on Mame Biram Diouf for Charlie Adam in a bid to alter the dimension of the game and, while it forced Saints into more mistakes, they were struggling to create clear-cut chances.

The hosts, too, were also now struggling to break down their opponents, although were still managing to get the odd shot away.

Playmaker Tadic shook off a back complaint to swivel in the box and roll an effort wide in the 66th minute, before turning provider with a corner which Pelle could only direct across the face of goal.

It was another wasted opportunity, leaving the hosts susceptible to a late Stoke comeback.

Diouf’s introduction had given City more of an attacking threat and, after having penalty appeals waved away, he came close to latching onto a raking Bardsley cross.

It was a let-off Saints were thankful for. Defending in numbers during the closing stages, they breathed a deep sigh of relief when substitute Marko Arnautovic struck wide in stoppage time as they held out for another win.

Published: Saturday 25th October 2014 by The News Editor

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