Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez were on target as Southampton eased past Fulham at St Marys and went into the Premier League’s top three.
Saints coach Mauricio Pochettino made two changes to the team that came away from Old Trafford with a credible draw last time out. Pablo Daniel Osvaldo and the injured Steven Davis dropped out and were replaced with Lambert and James Ward-Prowse.
Fulham manager Martin Jol was forced into one alteration after putting four past London rivals Crystal Palace on Monday. Skipper Brede Hangeland missed out with a trouble sciatic nerve problem.
Venezuelan Fernando Amorebieta deputised in defence. Bryan Ruiz meanwhile was fit to keep his place despite recent pain-killing injections to manage a back injury.
Southampton started strongly, quickly establishing dominance over Fulham and exploiting their attempts at passing out defence. Philippe Senderos saw a torrid night begin when Adam Lallana pinched possession from him and moments later a Morgan Schneiderlin shot had to be cleared off the line.
Victor Wanyama then saw a 25-yarder whistle past the post with Maarten Stekelenburg scrambling. The Saints deservedly led on 20 minutes when Lambert nodded in Rodriguez’s flick-on from a right-wing corner unmarked at the back post.
Dimitar Berbatov, who had been the beneficiary of slack marking against Palace, was culpable for Fulham conceding the opener. It could have got worse as Rodriguez danced through their defence, nutmeging the hapless Senderos before trying to pass the ball into the bottom corner.
Stekelenburg stuck out a limb, however, ensuring the effort trickled behind. Lambert then hit the base of the post with Scott Parker’s deflection preventing a second Saints goal. With the hosts in complete control, Fulham were indebted to their goalie again when he kept another Lambert header out.
The England striker peeled over Senderos, but his downward effort was scooped away by Stekelenburg and Luke Shaw shot into the side-netting with the follow-up. Two minutes before half time Southampton deservedly doubled their lead.
Lambert turned provider this time, knocking Lallana’s centre down to Rodriguez, who headed home from close range. Given their absolute first half dominance, the Saints turned to ole football after the break.
Jol made a change in defence, going to three at the back, but to no avail. Rodriguez attempted a bicycle kick, but the effort flew wide as Southampton continued to be patient in possession and pressure the visitors out of it.
Artur Boruc in the home goal never had a save to make. Darren Bent fed off scraps with Berbatov putting in a typically lazy away performance on an autumn evening. Stekelenburg apart, no Fulham player did themselves justice here.
The pipe and slippers stuff from Pochettino’s Saints in the second half demonstrated the gulf in class between Fulham and themselves. Southampton are flying whilst Jol may feel the heat turned up on him against after this tepid display.
- Southampton: 31 Artur Boruc, 2 Nathaniel Clyne, 6 Jose Fonte, 5 Dejan Lovren, 23 Luke Shaw, 4 Morgan Schneiderlin, 12 Victor Wanyama, 16 James Ward-Prowse (18 Jack Cork 90’+2), 20 Adam Lallana (c), 9 Jay Rodriguez (21 Guly do Prado 78’), 7 Rickie Lambert 4-2-3-1
- Goals: Rickie Lambert 20’, Jay Rodriguez 43’
- Fulham: 1 Maarten Stekelenburg, 27 Sascha Riether (18 Aaron Hughes 46’), 4 Philippe Senderos, 35 Fernando Amorebieta, 15 Kieran Richardson, 7 Steve Sidwell, 28 Scott Parker, 10 Bryan Ruiz (11 Alex Kacaniklic 81’), 9 Dimitar Berbatov (c), 8 Pajtim Kasami, 39 Darren Bent (20 Hugo Rodallega 75’) 4-2-3-1