Southampton set a new club record of eight away wins with a 3-1 victory against relegation-threatened Watford on Sunday evening.
An uneventful opening quarter of an hour was made to seem all the more scrappy when Danny Ings produced the first moment of quality, with a piece of neat footwork creating a pocket of space to fire in the opener for Southampton.
The Saints largely dominated the play, suffocating Watford with a high press. Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster found Ings with a misplaced throw as the English striker ruthlessly capitalised on the mistake, making it 2-0 in the 70th minute.
As the game entered the final 15 minutes and the heavens opened, second-half substitute José Holebas whipped a devilish cross in behind Southampton's defence, forcing Jan Bednarek to stretch out a toe and inadvertently stick the ball into his own net, as Danny Welbeck lurked menacingly behind him.
But the growing whispers of a Watford fightback were rapidly dampened by a wonderful James Ward-Prowse free-kick three minutes later as the Saints saw out a comfortable victory to take them to the mythical 40-point mark.
Key Talking Point
Andre Gray was one of three players omitted from the squad for 'health and safety' reasons shortly before kick off. The English forward reportedly hosted an event and posted footage on social media which appeared to breach the official rules on social gatherings.
The trio's teammates who made it onto the pitch started as groggily as if they had been partying, mustering one shot and little threat in the first half.
With the words of Nigel Pearson still ringing in their ears, Watford doubled their efforts on goal inside the opening minutes of the second half, although they failed to test Alex McCarthy. The Hornets' best chances came from set pieces but each was inevitably met by the outstretched leg of a Southampton player.
Aside from the one spark of quality Holebas' cross offered, Watford produced very little, forced to disrupt Southampton through physical play which bore few fruits.
Watford Player Ratings
Starting XI: Foster (3); Femenía (5), Dawson (5), Cathcart (5), Masina (5); Hughes (6), Capoue (5); Sarr (6*), Doucouré (5), Pereyra (4); Deeney (5).
Substitutes: Welbeck (5), Holebas (6), João Pedro (5), Pussetto (5).
As ever, Watford's greatest threat came through their jet-heeled winger Ismaila Sarr down the right flank.
The Senegal international clearly had the pace to beat Southampton's Ryan Bertrand and when the left-back grabbed a chunk of opponent's shirt in the penalty area, Sarr stopped playing to throw an accusatory look in the referee's direction. The Video Assistant Referee swiftly dismissed the soft appeal after casting their omnipotent eye over the matter.
Sarr's influence faded in the second half but his direct and rapid darts in behind were the source of Watford's best chances.
Key Talking Point
Ings fired off the opener while encircled by a swarm of seven yellow shirts, yet it was Southampton's pressing which proved the more effective. The Saints were a sharp and cohesive unit throughout and this high pressure has become a staple of Ralph Hasenhüttl's reign.
When Southampton did gather possession, they crisply knocked the ball around the stranded Watford bodies in tight spaces.
Goals from Ings, a free-kick from Ward-Prowse and an away win ticked all the boxes on the Southampton bingo, but the afternoon was almost capped off perfectly as Che Adams - the club's £15m summer signing up front - came within a whisker of opening his account for the club.
Southampton Player Ratings
Starting XI: McCarthy (7); Walker-Peters (7), Bednarek (5), Vestergaard (7), Bertrand (7); Ward-Prowse (8), Romeu (8); Smallbone (6), Redmond (7); Long (7), Ings (9*).
Substitutes: Armstrong (6), Adams (6).
Ings moved onto 18 Premier League goals for the season with his brace, taking him second in the Premier League's scoring charts. But the 27-year-old offers so much more than just goals.
In Hasenhüttl's high pressing side, Ings is the first to snap at the heels of dawdling defenders. Southampton's number nine dutifully runs the channels and resolutely holds up the ball. He was alert and razor sharp from the first whistle and it was his awareness which saw him pounce upon Foster's error.
With Southampton sitting in 13th and on 40 points, the faint fears of relegation have almost entirely been swept away - which is fortunate, given Manchester City, Everton and Manchester United make up their next three fixtures.
Watford are still very much embroiled in the relegation battle, and after a trip to Chelsea, the Hornets have must-win meetings with Norwich City, Newcastle and West Ham.
Source : 90min