Southampton will “do everything” to reach 40 points after they took a huge step towards preserving their Premier League status for next season with victory over Wolves.
Nathan Redmond scored twice and substitute Shane Long scored a third after the break as the Saints moved eight points clear of 18th-placed Cardiff, who lost 2-0 at Burnley, with five games remaining.
The 40-point mark has often been a target set by managers to secure Premier League survival.
“We lost here not long ago against Cardiff and it seemed it [battle against relegation] would go right to the end, so we are very happy,” said manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, who took over at the start of December when his club were in a precarious position.
“I can guarantee we will do everything we can to get to 40 points.”
Despite knowing their safety was far from certain, the tension was not noticeable among the Saints players who made a stunning start when Redmond slotted in the opener.
Josh Sims, making his first Premier League start this season and big influence in the match, squared the ball to the feet of his team-mate who fired high past Rui Patricio at the near post.
Wolves equalised when Willy Boly headed in but soon after the restart the home side were back in front when Redmond clipped a shot over the Portuguese keeper.
Substitute Shane Long settled any nerves among his team-mates and the home fans when he poked in Southampton’s third in the 71st minute.
The match began under grey skies and ended in sunshine as Southampton all but ensured their place in the English top flight for the 2019-20 campaign.
When Austrian Hasenhuttl took over before festive period, Saints were 18th with only nine points from 15 games. Since then, wins over the likes of Arsenal, Everton, Leicester and Tottenham have seen his rejuvenated side steadily ease away from the mire.
What Southampton fans will also be pleased by is their new manager’s style of play, which is far more cavalier than the approach adopted by predecessor Mark Hughes.
Forward Redmond is one player who appears to be revelling in it. Having not scored until Hasenhuttl took the reins, he has now netted seven times.
His two finishes were those of a confident player. The first was instinctive and the second was well improvised after Patricio tried to close down the space.
If he continues this rich form into next season then perhaps Redmond might find himself with a regular spot in Gareth Southgate’s England side having been a stalwart at youth level.
Both Sims, 22, who was on loan at Reading this season, and fellow forward Danny Ings also impressed in an excellent attacking display.
Source – BBC