Che Adams’ superb finish ensured Southampton leapfrogged Watford in the Premier League table courtesy of a well-deserved 1-0 victory at Vicarage Road.
Claudio Ranieri’s side came crashing back down to earth following their impressive 5-2 victory at Everton last weekend, and it is now back-to-back home defeats for the Italian after he replaced Xisco Munoz as Watford manager earlier this month.
Southampton were the better side throughout this encounter, dealing the decisive blow when Adams picked his spot from Adam Armstrong’s pass after 20 minutes, bending his right-foot finish into the top corner – but the visitors missed a host of chances to extend their lead.
The result means Saints move up to 14th in the table on 11 points with Watford slipping down to 16th place on 10 points after as many games.
Watford: Foster (6), Ngakia (5), Troost-Ekong (5), Cathcart (6), Masina (6), Sissoko (6), Sarr (6), Joao Pedro (4), Kucka (7), Hernandez (4), King (6).
Subs: Cleverley (6), Sema (5), Fletcher (6).
Southampton: McCarthy (7), Livramento (7), Bednarek (7), Salisu (7), Walker-Peters (8), Elyounoussi (6), Ward-Prowse (8), Romeu (7), Redmond (7), Adams (8), Adam Armstrong (7).
Subs: Stuart Armstrong (6), Diallo (6).
Man of the match: Kyle Walker-Peters.
How Saints ended away curse
Southampton had won just one of their previous 17 Premier League away games prior to their trip to Hertfordshire, but there have been recent signs of improvement on the road – notably the goalless draw at Manchester City – and Ralph Hasenhuttl will have been delighted with his team’s performance in the absence of striker Armando Broja.
Saints have not lost an away league match against Watford since September 2007 in the Championship, and they gave signal of their intentions within the opening minute as Nathan Redmond’s cross ended up fortuitously in the gloves of Ben Foster off the outstretched boot of Craig Cathcart.
Watford were looking to win back-to-back Premier League matches for the first time since July 2020, but they really ought to have been punished for a sluggish start when Kyle Walker-Peters’ cross was headed over by Armstrong.
But four minutes later, they were behind – and it was no less than Southampton deserved following their courageous start. Again, the visitors worked the ball well down their left as Armstrong slipped the ball inside for Adams and the former Birmingham striker was afforded far too much time to curl his right-footed shot beyond Foster and into the top corner.
Watford made one change against Southampton, with Joao Pedro included for his first Premier League start.
Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse returned to the starting XI after serving a three-game ban for his red card against Chelsea. Ward-Prowse’s inclusion was one of four changes made by Ralph Hasenhuttl from the side which drew 2-2 with Burnley.
Kyle Walker-Peters, Adam Armstrong and Che Adams were also named in the line-up with Romain Perraud, Ibrahima Diallo and Theo Walcott dropping to the bench and Armando Broja out with an ankle problem.
Southampton were in the mood with both Walker-Peters and Tino Livramento getting forward at will but, from a pinpoint clearance from Foster, Watford came within inches of restoring parity against the run of play.
Joshua King was played into space down the left and the forward picked out the onrushing Ismaila Sarr on the opposite flank but, after his shot from an acute angle beat Alex McCarthy, Walker-Peters managed to produce a heroic clearance on his line.
Darren Bent said on Soccer Saturday: “What a chance! That’s the first time Watford have really put a few passes together – it’s been all Southampton.”
But normal service was then resumed as Southampton wrestled control of proceedings. Redmond slipped Armstrong down the right flank and, having hung up a cross to the far post, Adams inexplicably headed into the ground and over the bar from five yards out.
Redmond was the architect moments later again as he found Armstrong unopposed on the edge of the box but the striker was unable to pick out the same spot as Adams, with Foster rooted to the spot.
After their heroics in the 5-2 win at Everton last weekend, this was turning into a case of after the Lord Mayor’s Show for Watford, who ought to have been further behind moments before the break when another teasing Walker-Peters cross was lashed over by the out-of-sorts Armstrong.
Ranieri sought to inject some urgency into his team at the restart as Tom Cleverley and Ken Sema replaced the anonymous Joao Pedro and Cucho Hernandez – but save for a couple of speculative drives from Juraj Kucka, Southampton remained in the driving seat.
Armstrong was again looking to the heavens when he controlled a bouncing ball expertly from Mohamed Elyounoussi winning an aerial challenge, but he could only guide his finish once more the wrong side of the post.
Redmond continued to have a quietly effective game as he received Oriol Romeu’s pass in a central position but his shot deflected wide off Cathcart, and then Armstrong picked up his personal battle with the bedraggled Watford defence.
He twisted inside Moussa Sissoko before firing agonisingly wide via a heavy deflection off William Troost-Ekong that wrong-footed Foster.
The closing stages were scrappy, which suited Southampton, but Ranieri’s final roll of the dice very nearly paid off as King picked out substitute Ashley Fletcher, who rolled Jan Bednarek but his instinctive shot was brilliantly clawed away by McCarthy as Southampton ended their long wait for a Premier League away win.
Live Renault Super Sunday
Sunday 7th November 1:00pm
Watford now go to Arsenal in the Premier League on Super Sunday at 2pm, live on Sky Sports Premier League, while Southampton host Aston Villa on Friday Night Football, live on Sky Sports Premier League at 8pm.