Southampton suffered defeat for the second time in a row in the Premier League, as they were put on their backside by Wolverhampton Wanderers at the end of the second half.
Two late goals from substitute Ivan Cavaleiro and left back Jonny were enough to undo the knots of a match that was there for the taking, and really should have been capitalised on by the Saints.
It was Wolves began the game with far more conviction, creating chances to run at the Southampton backline with pace and poise, but ultimately lacking the finish to put the Saints out of the tie early on.
Their first chance came from Jonny, who bombed down the left flank repeatedly in the opening exchanges. After a slick passing move, his shot failed to see the net, rifling straight into Alex McCarthy’s periphery, who was able to parry the ball away to safety.
Flying up the pitch with the ease they showed, Wolves should have put one of their passages of play away. Cedric Soares was the light in shining armour for Southampton in the first 20 minutes, being on hand to mop up advances from the Midlands side, and challenging headers to stop any clear cut chances from coming off.
After 20 minutes, the Saints started to grow into the game. They began to string passing formations together and keep the ball in possession to calm the game down, creating a platform from Mario Lemina and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerb in midfield to build from to create chances. Austin produced the first glimmer of hope, but saw his shot drag wide after being threaded through, just nipping past Danny Ings as it fired wide of the far post.
The opportunities then began to roll in for the away side, who were very much on the front foot for the vast majority of the 1st half, piling on the pressure to force the Midlands club to congregate into their 3rd of the pitch. Elynoussi saw his close range effort denied by Rui Patricio, whilst Ings’ swivel and shot inside the box needed a block to see it out, and his longshot on his weaker left was caught by the oppositions Portuguese ‘keeper.
Wolves’ attempt to respond before half time lacked any cutting edge, with Jimenez’s point blank strike straight at Alex McCarthy portraying the low level of finishing quality that was on show.
The second half began with the Saints crossing their fingers tightly, as an injury scare to Lemina saw him evacuate the field, but only abruptly as he returned to the field to continue play.
The Saints were the better and hungrier side for 25-30 minutes, as they picked up where they left off to put Wolves under the cosh. With Nathan Redmond being a common outlet, he ran at and teased Wolves with his close control dribbling and speed, and Ings was keen to add to his goal tally, seeing a couple of chances on the turn inside the box deflecting behind for corners.
They weren’t able to convert however, and Wolves took advantage of this, to the dismay of Mark Hughes.
Slowing the game down through a scrappy period of fouls and trips, the side in orange managed to restore their grip in possession, to the point where they ended the game in the same way they began; flying forward in attack.
It was Wolves’ substitutions that proved to be pivotal, as they injected drive and purpose into their advances up the pitch, so much so that Cavaleiro netted within two minutes of being sent on for Jota to give Wolves the lead.
The goal came courtesy of good work from another substitute, as Adama Traoré, who had replaced Hélder Costa after 53 minutes, burst down the right and sent in a low cross that Jiménez, with his back to goal, controlled on the edge of the six-yard box, before laying it back to his teammate, who fired high into the net.
It was almost 2-0 with seven minutes left, but McCarthy kept Saints in the game with a fine save to his right, acrobatically tipping Jiménez’s header over the bar.
However, McCarthy was indeed beaten four minutes from the end, as Wolves sealed the points. Doherty got away down the right and picked out Jonny at the near post, who took a touch and fired low past the Saints keeper. Gabbiadini had a chance to reduce the arrears in the dying stages, only to be denied by Patrício, as the visitors’ day ended in disappointment.
Whilst they dominated long periods of the game, the Saints just weren’t clinical enough with their opportunities, and it came back to bite when Wolves made a late charge. They now slip down to 15th in the table with 5 points on the board, so they will be desperate to add to their tally come next Sunday, but will need to be at their very best when they host high flying Chelsea, not long after they travel up to Merseyside to face Everton in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday.