What a massive game this was likely to be for either West Brom or Southampton. The Hawthorns was the setting for a relegation six-pointer that would yield no points, but the momentum that the FA Cup clash could generate for either side is worth its weight in gold.
The visitors were the ones that started off stronger as they dominated possession and got their reward for a fast start. Wesley Hoedt capitalised on some woeful marking to hit home from inside the box before Dusan Tadic supplied a lovely finish to make it 2-0 in the second-half.
The celebrations were short-lived though as Salomon Rondon volleyed in a superb effort to cut the lead in half. Despite West Brom pushing after the goal, the visitors held firm as they booked their place in the next round of the FA Cup and consigned West Brom to yet another defeat.
Southampton strike first
It was a game in which the first goal was always going to be incredibly important with the two sides only mustering 49 goals in 54 Premier League games between them as the style the two outfits would play would be predicated on whether they scored first or not, and it was the visitors that got the vital opener.
Southampton started the brighter of the two as they enjoyed a long spell of possession in the opening stages. This domination of the ball saw a number of probing attacks on the wings, but to no avail.
However, Cedric was able to win a corner for his side which was sent in by the ever-accurate James Ward-Prowse, and he was able to pick out Wesley Hoedt in the box and he fired him with his right-foot from six-yards out to send the travelling fans wild.
While Southampton will not care how the goal came, Alan Pardew will be furious to see that Hoedt was given so much time and space in the box as he had been left unmarked. With West Brom struggling to keep goals out from open play, the last thing they needed was to concede a sloppy goal from a set-piece, a situation in which they were able to get organised.
West Brom grow into the game
With the Hawthorns trying to get behind their team, it was crucial that Alan Pardew and his side found a way to get back into the match as quickly as possible.
The Baggies were able to piece together a number of attacks in the immediate aftermath of the goal as Matt Phillips first gave Jack Stephens a problem, but the defender came across to sweep up the danger. Salomon Rondon then smashed a 25-yard free-kick that hit the wall before Craig Dawson fired a header over the bar from a few yards out.
James McClean produced a superb effort to worry Alex McCarthy in the Saints’ goal as his strike from around 25-yards flew just wide of the post. However, as much as West Brom were growing into the game, Southampton knew that they could capitalise on the weaknesses of their hosts. Guido Carrillo was so close to getting on to the end of another ball into the area before Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg saw an effort cleared off the line as the Saints looked for a second.
While the home side were starting to show signs of a fightback, the fans will have been all too aware of how quickly a promising attack can end with a team conceding a goal after a lightning-fast break. Matt Phillip’s and Craig Dawson threatened once again before Southampton’s Dusan Tadic and Mario Lemina saw efforts miss the target.
Tadic adds a second but Rondon strikes back immediately
Every single person in the stadium was all too aware of how important the second goal would prove to be, and it was the visitors that netted to make it 2-0. Dusan Tadic, as he has so often does, proved too slippery for West Brom’s defence to handle as he got in through the middle of the Baggies’ backline before showing astounding composure to lift the ball over the body of Ben Foster to give the Saints a second.
With West Brom so poor going forward this season, the second was surely the killer blow. However, it took a moment of brilliance from Rondon to get his side back in the game.
Grzegorz Krychowiak fired in a cross-field pass that was latched onto by Rondon who connected with a sublime volley that flew past McCarthy in the Saints’ goal to give the home fans something to shout about.
It was a rare moment of quality from a West Brom player as they have struggled massively this season to find any sort of confidence. While it only halved the arrears, the mental boost the strike will have given the home players and fans was massive.
West Brom miss a glorious chance
With 81 minutes gone, Pardew would have been desperate to see his side create one more chance in the game, and that opportunity came, but it went by without the Baggies claiming it.
Ahmed Hegazi was able to send a shot that ricocheted and hit the bar with every other player watching on apprehensively. With the frame of the goal still shaking, Rondon saw the chance to claim his second of the game, but his header was cleared off the line by the ever-alert Ryan Bertrand.
It was a hands-on head moment for every single person in the stadium as the match should have seen its fourth goal, but another opportunity passed West Brom by.
West Brom fall to yet another defeat
While there were no points on offer for the game, do not underestimate how important the match was to both teams. Neither are in any sort of form of late so any kind of win was crucial, with the confidence this would generate massive.
Southampton can now look forward to another game outside of the Premier League, but for West Brom it was the end of the road. Some will claim that extra games will not aid their survival bid in the league, however, cup games provide a chance for a team to try new things and generate momentum that can be transferred into the league.
There were positives to be taken from the game, but it will worry Pardew that the goal they scored was one that was a moment of brilliance, but it is something that will not happen every week. As it is, they are now looking at only Premier League games, and they are still not scoring enough goals to even hint at a possible revival.
Southampton on the other hand will feel that this win will compound the misery on West Brom, while it will see their hopes of kickstarting their Premier League campaign heightened massively.
West Brom: Foster 6 – Dawson 6, McAuley 6, Hegazy 6, Evans 6 – Phillips 6 (Burke 5), Krychowiak 6 (Field 5), Barry 6 (Brunt 6), McClean 6.5 – Rondon 7, Rodriguez 6.
Unused subs: Nyom, Yacob, Myhill, Gabir.
Southampton: McCarthy 7.5 – Cedric 7, Stephens 7, Hoedt 7.5, Bertrand 7 – Hojbjerg 8 (Romeu 6), Lemina 6 – Ward-Prowse 7, Tadic 8, Redmond 7 (Gabbiadini 6) – Carrillo 7 (Sims 6).
Unused subs: Pied, Bednarek, McQueen, Forster.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh.
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