Southampton progressed to the fourth round of the FA Cup following a comfortable 1-0 away win at Championship side Fulham.
James Ward-Prowse’s calm finish half-an-hour in was all that separated the two sides, with Jack Stephens hitting the underside of the bar 15 minutes from time.
Fulham had opportunities to test Alex McCarthy in goal, but the Saints goalkeeper remained largely untested throughout the 90 minutes, with teenage wonderkid Ryan Sessegnon yet again impressing for the hosts.
No magic in the cup
The magic of the cup was in full swing across the country this afternoon, however, the magic has not made its way to West London as a dull opening 10 minutes barely saw both teams even try to attack one-another.
Shane Long thought he had opened the scoring when the striker put the ball into the back of the net 11 minutes in, but the Irish international was correctly flagged off for offside by the linesman, waking up both the teams and the crowd.
As the game progressed, Fulham wonderkid Sessegnon began to show why he was one of the best teenagers in Europe. The 17-year-old fullback was finding free areas of space his older, more experienced teammates were unable to find, and using the space to create chances, but nothing to serious to trouble McCarthy.
Saints take the lead
It looked like no team was going to score, but a mistake at the back for the Championship side allowed Ward-Prowse to take the lead 30 minutes in after missing a great chance moments before.
Following a Fulham goal kick, the ball was instantly won back by the visitors through Steven Davies, who fumbled with ball on the edge of the area with Kevin McDonald. The ball fell to Ward-Prowse just inside the penalty area, and the England U21 international was able to coolly slot the ball past David Button to make it 1-0.
The Saints almost made it 2-0 three minutes after the opening goal when Sofiane Boufal danced his way down the left wing and into the penalty area, before striking a fierce shot towards goal, but Button was able to turn the Moroccan’s shot behind for a corner, which proved to be the final chance of the half.
Second half blues
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg almost got Southampton off to a perfect restart in the second half, when the Danish international waltzed his way through the Fulham defence before playing a neat one-two with Long to set the midfielder in on goal, but his effort from close range was easy work for Button.
At the other end of the pitch, Stefan Johansen wasted a golden chance to level things up 60 minutes in, when the Norwegian midfielder found himself in front of goal with the chance to shoot, but instead of testing the Southampton keeper, Johansen teed the ball out to Oliver Norwood, who’s shot was smothered by McCarthy.
Southampton came inches away from doubling their lead 15 from time when a corner from the left wing bounced off the head of Jan Bednarek, and into the path of Stephens, who’s well connected header crashed off the underside of the bar, and out of play. Despite looking like the ball crossed the line, the referee’s watch did not going off.
The fulltime whistle indicated Southampton’s first win in nine games, and passage into the next round of the FA Cup.