Built on Saints
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of our much-loved home, Graham Hiley tells the tale of the stadium’s most memorable Southampton victories.
Saints 6-1 Aston Villa
16th May 2015
Imagine nipping to the toilet after 13 minutes of this incredible game! By the time you got back you would have missed the fastest hat-trick in Premier League history.
Two minutes and 56 seconds was all it took for Sadio Mané to bang in a lightning-quick treble and blast his way into the record books – possibly permanently.
The Senegal forward smashed more than 90 seconds off Robbie Fowler’s previous best of four minutes 33 seconds set against Arsenal in August 1994.
There was barely enough time for commentators and fans to draw breath as the irrepressible icon rattled in one goal after another to effectively win the match and set a new record which may never be beaten at this level.
If the Southampton ace had received an award for the achievement, his list of people to thank would surely have included the whole of the Villa defence as they crumbled in the face of a furious onslaught.
And that despite the fact the visitors went into the game still needing to secure their Premier League survival!
By contrast Ronald Koeman’s men were flying high and still chasing a Europa League place by squeezing into the top six – but knowing that seventh place would be enough provided Villa lost the FA Cup final to Arsenal.
On this evidence, that was always going to happen.
Tim Sherwood’s side were awful. Woefully inept at the back, limp and loose in midfield, they could not live with the pace, power and passion of a Southampton team determined to finish with a flourish in their final home fixture of a hugely enjoyable campaign.
The visitors were lucky to avoid going behind after just four minutes as Graziano Pellè’s cool finish was incorrectly called offside well before the days of VAR. The Italian ghosted in behind the defence to slot home Nathaniel Clyne’s deep cross from the right with replays showing he was clearly onside.
But it mattered little in the greater scheme of things thanks to an electrifying burst from Southampton’s Mané man.
With just 13 minutes on the clock Paulo Gazzaniga’s long kick was flicked on by Pellè for Mané to dart between Alan Hutton and Ron Vlaar. His shot was blocked by Shay Given but the ball broke kindly for the Senegalese to steer into an empty net.
Villa pressed the self-destruct button again barely a minute later. Mané on the right pressured Vlaar into under-hitting a backpass and Shane Long darted in. Again the ball squirted into space and the African ace turned on the after-burners to reach it and slot into the open goal from a tight angle.
Incredibly, even before the cheers had died down, it was 3-0. Long burst down the left and squared for Mané who, despite his obvious threat and momentum, was incredibly left completely unmarked 16 yards out. He clipped the ball into the top-right corner to send the statisticians reaching for the record books. Not only was it the fastest ever Premier League hat-trick but also the earliest.
Meanwhile Saints went for the jugular, just as they had done earlier in the season against Sunderland. On 25 minutes the unstoppable Mané threaded an inch-perfect through ball to put Pellè one-on-one with Given.
Again the keeper blocked, again the ball broke loose with no defenders reacting and this time it was Long who slotted into an unguarded goal.
It just got better and better for Saints and after 37 minutes Long scored the goal of the game. He easily robbed Ashley Westwood near the centre circle, strode forward and clipped a superb 35-yard chip over the stranded keeper to make it 5-0.
Three minutes into the time added on for the celebrations, Villa pulled one back. Leandro Bacuna crossed from the right and Christian Benteke climbed above José Fonte to power home a header.
The second half was something of an anti-climax with interest mainly focused on whether Long could compete with Mané for the matchball, but he was unable to take the few half chances which came his way.
Home fans had to wait until nine minutes from time for the sixth. Mané played a sweet one-two with Filip Djuričić before crossing for Pellè to steal in unchecked to volley home from six yards and grab the goal he deserved.
The thumping victory consolidated seventh spot with an outside chance of fifth, though with a tough final fixture at runners-up Manchester City. As it turned out, Koeman’s men had already done enough to get into Europe despite a 2-0 defeat at the Etihad.
Villa fans could at least look forward to the FA Cup final, albeit through gritted teeth. Hull’s 2-0 defeat at Spurs meant they survived – though hardly on merit.
But those details paled into insignificance against the magical memory of the mercurial Mané and his place in Premier League history.
Saints: Gazzaniga, Clyne, Fonte, Alderweireld, Bertrand, Wanyama, S Davis (Yoshida 72), Long, Ward-Prowse (Djuričić 80), Mané, Pellè (Elia 85). Subs: K Davis, Gardos, Targett, Reed.
Aston Villa: Given, Bacuna (Lowton 67), Vlaar, Okore, Hutton, Westwood, Delph, Cleverley, N’Zogbia (Agbonlahor 57), Grealish (Sinclair 82), Benteke. Unused subs: Guzan, Weimann, Senderos, Sanchez.
Referee: Robert Madley