April 28 (Reuters) - SOUTHAMPTON 2 BOURNEMOUTH 1
Southampton’s Dusan Tadic kept alive their hopes of retaining their Premier League status by scoring twice in a 2-1 win over south-coast rivals Bournemouth to move them ahead of Stoke City in the battle to avoid the drop.
Mark Hughes recorded his first league victory as Southampton manager with his side showing fighting spirit at just the right time, moving to 32 points and within a point of the safety zone with three games left.
Serbian forward Tadic opened the scoring after 25 minutes with a clinical finish past goalkeeper Asmir Begovic before Bournemouth threatened to spoil the optimism when Joshua King netted an equaliser on the stroke of halftime.
But Tadic ensured Southampton ended a dismal run of nine league matches without a victory at St Mary’s Stadium with the winner in the 54th minute when he raced onto a long ball and fired a low shot into the bottom corner.
It was a nervous start from both sides but Saints got the early advantage when they produced a superb counter-attack following a poor corner by Bournemouth and opened the scoring.
Nathan Redmond cleared the ball and Southampton had three on one as Mario Lemina burst forward and played the perfect ball into the path of Tadic who calmly slotted the ball past Begovic.
Charlie Austin and Lemina spurned chances to double the lead and Bournemouth made them pay at the end of the first half when King was left unmarked at the far post and directed the ball into the roof of the net from Ryan Fraser’s corner.
Saints had thrown away a two-goal lead against Arsenal in their previous home game but Tadic ensured there was no repeat performance as he netted the winner after 54 minutes.
Bournemouth defender Steve Cook failed to deal with a long pass forward from Alex McCarthy and Tadic reacted quickest as he picked up the loose ball and raced towards the penalty area before striking a left-foot shot into the bottom corner.
Eddie Howe’s Bournmeouth side had claims for a penalty turned down two minutes from time for a handball against Wesley Hoedt, while Southampton’s McCarthy made a fine save to keep out Fraser’s close-range effort in added time.
Southampton held on to record a priceless three points and will now be full of confidence as they prepare for their final three games against Everton, Swansea City and Manchester City.
Reporting by Marc Isaacs; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Ken Ferris