Lambert sparks Saints revival
6:17pm Saturday 22nd September 2012 in © Press Association 2014
A Rickie Lambert-inspired Southampton produced a superb comeback to collect their first victory back in the top flight as they beat Aston Villa 4-1.
Saints came into the match rooted to the bottom after four successive defeats but secured three points on the south coast as their 30-year-old talisman netted twice and set up another. Their miserable start to life back in the Premier League had looked set to continue after sloppy defending allowed Darren Bent to break the deadlock in the first half.
However, Lambert drew the hosts level in the second half after firing home under pressure and the match turned on its head five minutes later. Nathaniel Clyne slotted home from close range before Jason Puncheon saw a shot deflected in by Villa defender Ciaran Clark. Lambert then netted his second of the day from the spot in stoppage time.
Saints did most of the early running but were reduced to long-range efforts, with former Aston Villa midfielder Steven Davis and Gaston Ramirez screwing shots wide from distance.
Adam Lallana attempted an overhead kick during a penalty box melee on the half-hour mark, which was caught by Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Barry Bannan volleyed wide for the visitors before Bent handed Villa a 36th-minute lead, finding space between Maya Yoshida and Danny Fox to tap home Stephen Ireland's mishit shot. Christian Benteke should have extended Villa's advantage in the 50th minute, meeting Bannan's corner with a powerful header that flew just over the bar.
Lambert equalised in the 58th minute, expertly controlling a driven Lallana cross from the right and lashing home under pressure from four Villa defenders. The leveller seemed to lift a weight off the Southampton players' shoulders as Lallana soon flashed a 25-yard effort just over before Clyne then snuck in to put Saints ahead.
Having started the move, the defender burst into the box and collected an exquisite Ramirez ball to slot home from close range in the 63rd minute. It was 3-1 nine minutes later when Puncheon showed good control before rifling home a shot from the edge of the six-yard box which was defended in by Villa defender Clark.
Emmanuel Mayuka curled a shot inches wide in the 78th minute before he was brought down in the box by Guzan in stoppage-time.
The American received a booking for the challenge and Lambert slotted home the spot-kick to give Saints their first Premier League victory since defeating Norwich 4-3 in April 2005.