New Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl took the positives from his first game in charge, despite Callum Paterson’s goal giving Cardiff City a precious victory in the battle against Premier League relegation.
“I was not disappointed with what my team showed me, but that’s the basics,” said the Austrian, who has replaced the sacked Mark Hughes. “The rest will come in the next weeks.
“It will be perfect if we get some results for the self-confidence. We didn’t here, but we have to keep working and they will come.”
Cardiff squandered several chances during a frenetic first half in which a vulnerable visiting defence looked there for the taking.
Southampton appeared to have weathered that storm after the break but, as the rain came down at a raucous Cardiff City Stadium, they fell behind in shambolic fashion.
A pass from Victor Camarasa ran harmlessly to Jannik Vestergaard, but the Saints centre-back inexplicably dithered on the ball and was dispossessed by Paterson, whose low finish dribbled slowly into the corner.
“It is very hard to accept that we didn’t get a point, but with these mistakes we don’t deserve it,” Hasenhuttl said.
“We had a lot of pressure and we were good with the ball, but we played too much from deep and inside instead of penetrating them.
“We need more forward runs in the coming months and less mistakes in the defence.”
Cardiff’s fourth win in five home matches lifted them to 14th place in the table, four points clear of the bottom three.
For Southampton, meanwhile, a 12th league game without victory leaves them second from bottom, three points adrift of safety.
A losing start for Hasenhuttl
The size of the task facing new Southampton manager Hasenhuttl was underlined on Wednesday, when the Austrian watched from the Wembley Stadium stands as his side were soundly beaten by Tottenham.
Dubbed the “Klopp of the Alps” because of his charismatic personality and emphasis on high-pressing, energetic football, the 51-year-old made his mark immediately with a first-team selection which showed six changes from that midweek loss.
One of the players recalled, striker Charlie Austin, had three early chances but failed to make the most of those openings – putting one wide, one over and the other straight at goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.
Those opportunities, however, were something of a false dawn.
Hasenhuttl will have been concerned by his side’s defensive frailties, particularly their vulnerability against Cardiff’s counter-attacks.
Even with three changes to their back four, the Saints defenders were often out of position and exposed by the pace of their opponents’ wingers, Josh Murphy and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing.
It proved the undoing of young right-back Yan Valery, taken off at the break after a chastening 45 minutes in which he was run ragged by Murphy and booked for a foul on the Cardiff player.
As fragile as Southampton were, the hosts’ inability to convert their chances appeared to lift the Saints’ confidence in the second half.
They started to hold the ball for longer periods and, after an hour, they had an appeal for a penalty turned down by referee Jonathan Moss as Stuart Armstrong fell rather theatrically following a challenge from Camarasa, with replays suggesting there was only minimal – if any – contact.
Southampton offered little else as an attacking threat, and their defensive weaknesses eventually led to their downfall as Vestergaard – unconvincing throughout the game – crumbled under pressure from Paterson to hand Cardiff the winning goal.
Cardiff’s home comforts
Cardiff may still be regarded by many as prime relegation candidates but they had given their survival prospects a real shot in the arm with three wins from their previous four home matches.
What was particularly impressive about those victories was that they had all been achieved from losing positions, a combination of their tenacious team spirit and the rousing atmosphere inside Cardiff City Stadium.
Cardiff manager Neil Warnock had joked in the build-up to this match that, while impressive, those comebacks were not good for his stress levels and general wellbeing.
For once, however, this was not a match that Cardiff needed to pull from the fire.
They had a host of chances to take the lead, with Harry Arter volleying tamely at Alex McCarthy before Murphy ran clear of the Southampton defence, only to be foiled by their goalkeeper as well.
Cardiff looked most dangerous on the break, countering at speed with Murphy and Mendez-Laing – but their finishing was amiss.
Warnock’s men were also threatening from set-pieces, although their wastefulness looked like undermining their hopes of winning.
But with a helping hand from Vestergaard, makeshift striker Paterson – signed as a right-back at the start of last season – provided the crucial finishing touch to score his fourth goal of the season.
Man of the match – Harry Arter (Cardiff)
Saints’ longest winless run since 1989 – the stats
- Cardiff have won four of their last five Premier League home games (L1), as many as they had won in their previous 22 in the competition (W4 D6 L12).
- Southampton’s current 14-game winless run (W0 D7 L7) is their longest such run in all competitions since March 1989 (20 games).
- Cardiff ended a run of 12 Premier League games without a clean sheet, since a 0-0 draw with Huddersfield in August.
- Southampton are winless in their last nine Premier League games against newly promoted teams (D5 L4).
- Southampton have lost eight of their last nine away league games against Cardiff (W1).
- Nine of Callum Paterson’s 14 league goals for Cardiff City have been on home soil (64%).
‘We’ve already surprised a lot of people’ – what the managers said
Cardiff manager Neil Warnock: “We made it hard work. I felt we should have made it more comfortable with the chances that we had.
“I criticise referees a lot, but Jonathan Moss is the only referee who would have played advantage like he did for the goal.
“We know that we’re going to get most of the points here – we’ve already surprised a lot of people – but we just need to keep our feet on the ground.”
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl: “For a long time it looked like a 0-0. It was a very tough game for both teams.
“In the second period our performance was better and better. We had a few chances but in this best period we nearly made an own goal. It was a terrible mistake.
“The mentality was OK. We never gave up today. I have seen some good things from my team but we made too many mistakes today. We know that we have a hard and long way ahead of us.”
Cardiff travel to Watford in the Premier League on Saturday, 15 December (kick-off 15:00 GMT) while Southampton host Arsenal on Sunday, 16 December (kick-off 13:30 GMT) in Hasenhuttl’s first home match in charge.
- 5Ecuele Manga
- 4MorrisonBooked at 19mins
- 3BennettBooked at 66mins
- 19Mendez-LaingSubstituted forHoilettat 67'minutes
- 7ArterSubstituted forRallsat 90+1'minutes
- 11MurphySubstituted forK Harrisat 85'minutes
- 23K Harris
- 43ValeryBooked at 28minsSubstituted forStephensat 45'minutes
- 14RomeuBooked at 74minsSubstituted forWard-Prowseat 80'minutes
- 10AustinSubstituted forGabbiadiniat 75'minutes
- Jonathan Moss
- Shots on Target
Match ends, Cardiff City 1, Southampton 0.
Second Half ends, Cardiff City 1, Southampton 0.
Foul by Nathan Redmond (Southampton).
Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Mario Lemina (Southampton).
Callum Paterson (Cardiff City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Cardiff City. Joe Ralls replaces Harry Arter.
Foul by Manolo Gabbiadini (Southampton).
Sol Bamba (Cardiff City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Manolo Gabbiadini (Southampton) header from the centre of the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Matt Targett with a cross following a set piece situation.
Mario Lemina (Southampton) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Víctor Camarasa (Cardiff City).
Substitution, Cardiff City. Kadeem Harris replaces Josh Murphy.
Attempt missed. Sean Morrison (Cardiff City) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Harry Arter with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Cardiff City. Conceded by Jannik Vestergaard.
Attempt blocked. David Junior Hoilett (Cardiff City) left footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Callum Paterson with a headed pass.
Substitution, Southampton. James Ward-Prowse replaces Oriol Romeu.
Corner, Southampton. Conceded by Víctor Camarasa.
Attempt missed. Sean Morrison (Cardiff City) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Víctor Camarasa with a cross following a set piece situation.
Foul by Mario Lemina (Southampton).
David Junior Hoilett (Cardiff City) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Substitution, Southampton. Manolo Gabbiadini replaces Charlie Austin.
Oriol Romeu (Southampton) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Goal! Cardiff City 1, Southampton 0. Callum Paterson (Cardiff City) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner.
Corner, Cardiff City. Conceded by Jack Stephens.
Corner, Southampton. Conceded by Bruno Ecuele Manga.
Corner, Southampton. Conceded by Joe Bennett.
Corner, Southampton. Conceded by Bruno Ecuele Manga.
Substitution, Cardiff City. David Junior Hoilett replaces Nathaniel Mendez-Laing.
Attempt missed. Matt Targett (Southampton) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left from a direct free kick.
Joe Bennett (Cardiff City) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Nathan Redmond (Southampton) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Joe Bennett (Cardiff City).
Offside, Cardiff City. Bruno Ecuele Manga tries a through ball, but Callum Paterson is caught offside.
Mario Lemina (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Nathaniel Mendez-Laing (Cardiff City).
Attempt blocked. Matt Targett (Southampton) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Stuart Armstrong.
Corner, Southampton. Conceded by Aron Gunnarsson.
Hand ball by Josh Murphy (Cardiff City).
Foul by Oriol Romeu (Southampton).