Southampton 0-2 Fulham: Carlos Vinicius and Aleksandar Mitrovic both score as Saints are RELEGATED to the Championship after Ruben Selles’ side fall apart against the Cottagers
- Southampton were beaten 2-0 by Fulham on Saturday afternoon at St Mary’s
- It means Ruben Selles side have now been relegated to the Championship
- Carlos Vinicius broke the deadlock before Aleksandar Mitrovic doubled the lead
Dotted among a sea of empty seats, some Southampton supporters lingered to clap their side as they began a slow, painful lap of St Mary’s.
Many had streamed out at the final whistle. Many had left long before. Many hadn’t even bothered to turn up all.
Among those to hang about was Rishi Sunak. As James Ward-Prowse led his players down the tunnel, the Prime Minister posed for a few smiling selfies before taking his leave at last.
Sunak was born a few miles from here and he returned to see Southampton’s relegation confirmed with this 2-0 defeat by Fulham.
But make no mistake: their fate has been sealed slowly, piece by piece, bad decision by bad decision. Over more than a year. They have been reaping what they sow since the end of last season, when they kept Ralph Hasenhuttl only to sack him in November.
Southampton were relegated to the Championship after their 2-0 loss to Fulham at St Mary’s
The result was their third consecutive loss and confirmed their fate at the bottom of the table
Carlos Vinicius (left) scored the first goal for Fulham after a goalless and cagey first half
When they appointed Nathan Jones, a polarising figure with no-Premier League credentials.
When they jettisoned him in February and handed this poisoned chalice to Selles, who has never had a top job in senior football.
The Spaniard coaxed the odd flicker of life from a lopsided squad but never looked like steering them away from the inevitable.
SOUTHAMPTON: (4-2-3-1) McCarthy 6; Walker-Peters 5, Bednarek 5, Lyanco 6, Maitland-Niles 5 (A Armstrong 82, 6); Ward-Prowse 6, Lavia 6; Walcott 5 (Sulemana 62, 5), Alcaraz 5.5 (Elyounoussi 73, 6), Armstrong 5 (Djenepo 73, 5); Onuachu 5 (Mara 62, 5)
Subs not used: Caleta-Car, Aribo, Bree, Bazunu
Bookings: Lavia, Djenepo
Coach: Ruben Selles 6
FULHAM: (4-2-3-1) Leno 6; Tete 6.5, Tosin 6, Diop 6, Robinson 6.5; Reed 6.5, Palhinha 6.5 (Lukic 77, 6); Wilson 6.5 (Kebano 78, 6); Cairney 7 (De Cordova-Reid 69, 6.5); Willian 7 (Solomon 78, 6), Vinicius 7 (Mitrovic 65, 7)
Subs not used: Rodak, Duffy, Cedric, Harris
Goals: Vinicius 48, Mitrovic 72
Coach: Marco Silva 7
Referee: Thomas Bramall 6
Player of the Match: TBA
Venue: St Mary’s
St Mary’s was already flush with empty seats by the time Carlos Alcaraz saw a goal ruled out for offside and Fulham went straight up the other end to score through Carlos Vinicius.
After Aleksandar Mitrovic – back from his eight-match ban for pushing a referee – headed home Fulham’s second, an exodus began.
On his way out, one disgruntled Southampton supporter threw his season ticket towards the dugout. It didn’t even reach the hoardings. And that felt rather fitting.
The formula for Saints was simple: only three wins from their final three matches would have given them any hope of extending an 11-year stay in the top flight.
They had done it twice before. In 2015/16 en route to European football. And, remarkably, in 1998-99 to avoid relegation.
Such escapology never felt likely this time round. Even with a dark tint of red and white.
Between them, Hasenhuttl, Jones and Selles have amassed just six league wins all season, after all.
Southampton had failed to find victory in any of their previous 10 matches. Or in any of their 17 previous games against teams in the top half.
No wonder, then, that the stench of resignation drifted around St Mary’s even before kick-off.
Mutiny had given way to apathy.
For Sunak, meanwhile, this ground painted an unwelcome reminder of recent results.
Only last week, he watched his party lose more than 1,000 seats on councils across the country.
On Saturday, this stadium was full with fresh pockets of red, too – places left empty by those Saints fans who had lost all hope. They didn’t miss much. Certainly in the first half.
Saints were left heart broken after Carlos Alcaraz had a goal disallowed just before for offside
He was fractionally ahead of the last defender and pleaded to the officials after scoring
Aleksandar Mitrovic (middle) returned from an eight-game ban to score Fulham’s second
If this was supposed to the club’s last stand, their final hope of turning the tide, it was all rather meek. At one point, shortly before half-time, one Southampton supporter shouted above the murmurings. His message? ‘Move!’
That certainly would have helped. Neither team got out of second gear as Fulham controlled the ball and slowly twisted the knife.
Willian saw a shot headed off the line by Lyanco; the defender also escaped a handball shout inside the penalty area.
At the other end, Selles had rolled the dice one final time by handing only a fourth league start to Paul Onuachu. £18million he cost in January. The striker is still awaiting his first goal.
He did, at least, manage a shot – nipping into win possession before firing tamely towards Bernd Leno’s goal.
It was a brief interlude to the boredom. But nothing on the half-time relay, which saw eight kids race around the pitch and rouse the crowd like nothing during the previous 45 minutes.
Thankfully, some goalmouth action did follow. Alcaraz thought he had put Saints ahead from James Ward-Prowse’s through ball, only for the linesman to flag and for Fulham to race up the other end.
Harry Wilson slid in Harrison Reed, Lyanco intervened but the ball ran for Vinicius to tap in.
Mitrovic, given a hero’s welcome back from the away end, doubled the visitors’ lead 18 minutes from time.
Some fans at St Mary’s departed early after their side went 2-0 down in the second half
The home side were left looking dejected on the field after the loss confirmed their fate
The result pushes Fulham up to ninth in the Premier League standings with two games to play
The result means Ruben Selles’ (pictured) side’s 11-year stay in the Premier League is over
His goal only accelerated the inevitable. And ensured he and Fulham broke new ground.
Never before has the striker reached 12 Premier League goals in a season.
Meanwhile, Marco Silva’s side, who climb to ninth with these three points, have now won 15 Premier League games in 2022/23. Including seven on the road. Both are club records.
Southampton will have to earn another chance to hit such heights.Alas, the last time they dropped out the top flight, in 2004/05, it took them seven years to return.
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