Leeds (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl branded his side’s second-half performance a disaster as Leeds ran riot thanks to goals from Patrick Bamford, Stuart Dallas and Raphinha for a 3-0 win on Tuesday that took them into the top half of the Premier League.
After topping the table earlier in the season, Saints are not yet safe as they have taken just one point from their last eight league games.
Hasenhuttl took the bold decision to leave top scorer Danny Ings and on-loan Liverpool midfielder Takumi Minamino on the bench with the Austrian wary of further injuries affecting his depleted squad.
The visitors could still have gone in front before half-time as Nathan Tella saw a penalty overturned after a VAR review, while Che Adams had a goal ruled out.
“First half good, second half a disaster,” said Hasenhuttl. “It was deserved, they killed us in the second half.
“In the first half we showed we can compete as a team. The second half, balls in behind was causing us problems and that is too easy.”
With both sides throwing men forward at every opportunity, goals seemed certain to come and Bamford continued his excellent season with a calm finish from Tyler Roberts’ pass two minutes into the second period for his 13th goal of the season.
“When the games are so close, the team that scores first gets the advantage,” said Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa.
In previous seasons, Bielsa’s men have run out of steam in the second half of the campaign.
But there are not any signs of fatigue showing yet as a typically energetic counter-attack killed the game off 12 minutes from time.
Raphinha’s run distracted the Southampton defence to create the space for Dallas to fire home Helder Costa’s pass from the edge of the area.
When Costa was then taken down on another dangerous break six minutes later, Raphinha dispatched the resulting free-kick low into McCarthy’s right-hand post to round off a brilliant individual display with a goal.
“Raphinha can unbalance teams by himself,” added Bielsa. “Our game is based on combinations and to have a player who can combine and create in individual actions, that is very important.”
Victory takes Leeds above Arsenal in the table and to within five points of sixth-placed Liverpool as they push for a European place in their first season back in the top flight for 16 years.
Southampton remain in 14th but Fulham’s upturn in form of late means they now enjoy just an eight-point cushion over the relegation zone.