Southampton got back to winning ways and finally reached the 40-point landmark with a 3-1 win at Watford on Sunday afternoon.
After a competitive opening, Southampton broke the deadlock after 15 minutes courtesy of some brilliant footwork and a well-placed finish from Danny Ings, who scored his 20th goal of the season in all competitions.
The visitors continued to have the better of the first half with Shane Long and James Ward-Prowse both having half-chances to double their advantage.
The second-half began in a backs-to-the-wall manner with Nigel Pearson’s side clearly looking to make amends for a sluggish first-45.
However, the Saints were doing all the basic defending very well and still posed a threat on the counter-attack with the pace of Long and Nathan Redmond.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side looked to have made the three points secure thanks to Ings again who made the most of a poor throw from Ben Foster to fire a shot at the Watford goal which deflected into the back of the net.
Watford pulled a goal back with just over 10 minutes to play via an unfortunate Jan Bednarek own goal.
Southampton restored their two-goal lead with a sublime James Ward-Prowse free-kick that beat a rooted Foster.
The Saints’ day was almost complete as Che Adams came close to breaking his scoring duck before Redmond produced a great strike that hit the post.
Here’s how we rated the Southampton players:
Alex McCarthy: 6
After Thursday’s howler of a showing, McCarthy would’ve been relieved with a quiet afternoon at Vicarage Road.
In fact, he didn’t have a single save to make which is a credit to the defence in front of him.
Kyle Walker-Peters: 8
The three games since the restart have definitely shown that Saints are a much more solid outfit with Walker-Peters at right-back rather than Yan Valery.
Not only was he assured defensively, but he also added some composure and quality to his play in possession, while the 23-year old also exuded confidence.
He was perhaps a bit fortunate to not concede a penalty in the second-half but other than that, it was an assured performance.
Jannik Vestergaard: 8
Many people would’ve feared how Jack Stephens’ absence could’ve disrupted the Saints defence with Vestergaard coming in to partner Jan Bednarek.
However, the Danish defender was more than settled and contributed to limiting the Hornets to half-chances.
Jan Bednarek: 7
The own goal was an unfortunate one because it was a nightmare cross to deal with and one that he had to make an attempt to cut out.
Aside from that, it was a superb showing from the whole of the defence, especially in the first 20 minutes of the second-half when Watford were really putting on the pressure.
Ryan Bertrand: 8
Bertrand was more disciplined as he opted to stay back more often as opposed to helping Redmond in the attack.
This ensured Vestergaard was given more support. It was an intelligent display from the left-back.
Oriol Romeu: 7
Perhaps understandably, it was a slightly sluggish opening from Romeu who was making his first start for a number of months.
However, he quickly got up to speed and didn’t look out of place in a midfield that was superb at retrieving the ball immediately after losing it.
James Ward-Prowse: 9
Ward-Prowse loves playing against Watford!
His last goal before this match was an excellent free-kick at home to Watford – matched by another sublime one at Vicarage Road.
With Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg out of the side with a knock, Ward-Prowse seemed to adopt his best qualities on top of his own by winning possession in vital areas before showing signs of quality with the ball.
Will Smallbone: 7
It was an interesting decision for Hasenhuttl to pick Smallbone to play in the more advanced role that is often filled by Stuart Armstrong.
The youngster didn’t do anything spectacular but he produced some neat and tidy passes and showed plenty of promise.
However, his positioning seemed slightly off which may have been the reason for him being the first player substituted and is understandable given it was an unfamiliar position.
Nathan Redmond: 7
Redmond’s best qualities in Hertfordshire were actually the ones in his own half.
He was brilliant at winning back possession in the middle third before releasing the ball to those in a more threatening area.
The winger was also unlucky not to add a fourth late on after striking the upright.
Shane Long: 7
This match perfectly illustrated why Shane Long is so important to the side and why Michael Obafemi and Che Adams so often have to sit on the sidelines.
The Irish striker didn’t give the Watford defenders time to think which resulted in numerous mistakes from the Hornets.
Although, there were a couple of moments where you could tell his fitness wasn’t quite up to scratch after being beaten in a foot race but he’d have been pleased to get lots of minutes on his belt.
Danny Ings: 10
Ings is most notable for his superb finishing but what often goes under the radar is his exemplary footwork and close control.
This match demonstrated both skills to the max with two excellent goals on top of his continuous pressing and link-up play in a perfect performance.
The striker will now have all eyes on the Golden Boot after moving just one behind pacesetter Jamie Vardy.
Stuart Armstrong (sub): 6
Armstrong was given a much needed rest after looking rather tired against Arsenal before coming on after an hour.
He looked refreshed in his 30-minute stint and would’ve been pleased with his contribution.
Che Adams (sub): 6
15 minutes isn’t quite enough to warrant a rating but it was long enough for the striker to make an impact on proceedings and it was very nearly a cameo to remember when he was played in behind but saw his shot at goal diverted away by Ben Foster.