Saints off the mark after defeating Villa

Premier League, St Mary's - Southampton 4 (Lambert 58, pen 90, Clyne 63, Puncheon 72) Aston Villa 1 (Bent 35)

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Rickie Lambert scores for Southampton (AFP)

Southampton came from behind with a four-goal salvo to claim their first points of their Premier League return, beating Aston Villa 4-1.

Darren Bent had put the visitors ahead 10 minutes before half-time but Southampton finally drew dividends from their encouraging play, turning the result on its head before ultimately running out clear winners.

Rickie Lambert's fierce equaliser was followed by right-back Nathaniel Clyne finishing off a beautiful first-time assist from Gaston Ramirez.

Jason Puncheon then deflected in a third off Ciaran Clark and Lambert's second from the spot in stoppage time was the icing on the cake.

The win takes Saints out of the bottom three, if only momentarily, with those beneath them having played a game less at the full-time whistle.

Promoted Saints, without a single point to their name so far in their first campaign back in the top flight since 2005, grew into the game first and gave home fans hope that their first win would be on its way.

Record signing Gaston Ramirez was a key figure for Southampton in his full debut, almost notching an early first league goal in the shirt in the sixth minute if not for goalkeeper Brad Guzan’s alertness in rushing out and collecting his give-and-go with Rickie Lambert.

Adam Lallana and Jason Puncheon peppered the Villa box with deliveries from the flanks while Maya Yoshida, also in his first start, looked useful at the back alongside Jose Fonte.

Nigel Adkins’ side were being caught dawdling in their own half far too often, however, and Christian Benteke, himself starting for the first time for the visitors, joined Eric Lichaj and Bent in coming close to exploiting those holes.

It would be Bent who ultimately did for the opening goal, as the home side gifted their guests far too much time on the ball inside the Saints’ final third until Stephen Ireland ultimately scuffed a shot towards goal which Bent latched onto and guided beyond Paulo Gazzaniga.

Both managers felt the need to make half-time substitutions, with Ireland replaced by Ashley Westwood for Villa while Frazer Richardson came on for Danny Fox for Southampton.

Paul Lambert’s choice of change, whether tactical or fitness-related, would prove costly as without the influential and sharp Ireland, the away side surrendered even more possession and for the most part their ability to counter.

There was an early chance for 2-0 when Benteke crossed for Bent, whose crack at a brace was kept out well by Gazzaniga, but the Villans were soon lost in a sea of red.

With 13 minutes played in the second half, Lambert had the space to lash a wicked strike into the back of the net despite Guzan’s best efforts in the first Premier League goal scored by a home side all day.

There were more where that came from, as after Lallana had come close to putting his side ahead with a half-volley, the excellent Ramirez gracefully sent Clyne through in one fluid motion, ended by the attack-minded full-back’s confident finish for 2-1.

Puncheon had struggled to make a mark in the early stages of the game but grew into more and more of a threat and ultimately deserved his goal on 72 minutes.

Lambert picked out the winger inside the box where Puncheon cut back from the byline and with the help of an unwitting Clark doubled his side’s advantage.

And with the away side conceding defeat, they switched off in stoppage time and the lively substitute Emmanuel Mayuka burst into a one-on-one with Guzan, drawing the foul and giving Lambert four for the hosts and four for himself this season so far from 12 yards.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Gaston Ramirez - In his first Saints start, the marquee acquisition from Bologna was involved in almost every significant attack and proved a strong ball-winner to boot. Could prove to be a crucial cog of the survival machine.

PLAYER RATINGS

SOUTHAMPTON: Gazzaniga 7, Clyne 8, Yoshida 8, Scheiderlin 6, Fonte 7, Lambert 8, Davis 7, Ramirez 9, Fox 5, Lallana 6, Puncheon 7. SUBS: Ward-Prowse 5, Richardson 6, Mayuka 7.

ASTON VILLA: Guzan 6, Vlaar 6, Clark 7, Ireland 7, El Ahmadi 5, Bent 6, Holmann 5, Benteke 6, Bannan 6, Lichaj 6, Lowton 6. SUBS: Agbonlahor 5, Westwood 5, Bennett 5.

MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND STATS

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