SAINTS looked impressive and went ahead early in their Premier League opener at Tottenham Hotspur, but old habits die hard as the hosts cruised to a 4-1 victory.
James Ward-Prowse landed himself on the goalscorer charts on day one with a first-time effort from outside the area, but Ryan Sessegnon and Eric Dier put Spurs ahead by half-time.
Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl made a double-change at the break but to little effect, as a Mohammed Salisu own goal and Dejan Kulusevski made it back-to-back 4-1 defeats for Saints in the Premier League.
Saints were looking to put an end to a couple of hoodoos. Not only had they won just three of their previous 20 away league matches, they held the longest winless run on the opening day (eight).
Hasenhuttl himself has never got a point from the first match of a campaign, with defeats to Burnley, Crystal Palace and Everton in his three prior since arriving at St Mary’s.
The Austrian stuck with the shape he had familiarised in pre-season, rewarding the form of Adam Armstrong, Moussa Djenepo and Yan Valery – while Stuart Armstrong started from the bench.
Saints survived early warning signs with both teams getting success down their right, while the five-at-the-back was taken with a courageous approach as Hasenhuttl’s wing-backs bombed forward.
Ward-Prowse then started this season where he left off last, giving the visitors the lead inside 12 minutes. Valery’s delivery made its way through to Djenepo, who squeezed it across to the edge of the area for the skipper.
The home side had a couple of weak penalty shouts but got their leveller through Sessegnon just 10 minutes later, Swedish international Kulusevski crossing for the Englishman to beat Kyle Walker-Peters at the back-post.
By the half-hour mark, a wicked cross from Heung-min Son was glanced in by Dier for their second header of the match – putting Spurs ahead. Gavin Bazunu had to make smart saves to keep the deficit at one before the break.
Hasenhuttl opted for a double change, with Armstrong replacing his namesake and Jack Stephens on for Valery. However, Sessegnon immediately broke in to score – the linesman’s flag saving Saints.
They looked to fight back and enjoyed a first steady period of possession in the half, but that was undone when Salisu – under no pressure but afraid to use his right-foot to clear an oncoming ball – spooned an attempted clearance into the back of the net after 60 minutes.
Emerson, who had also led the attack for the third just moments earlier, then pulled it to Kulusevski, free in the area, and the youngster curled it into the far corner to seal the victory.
Spurs supporters gave Walker-Peters a nice ovation when he was substituted in the final minutes of added time, but perhaps would not have done so if it was not so comfortable.
Spurs: Lloris; Emerson (Lenglet, 86), Romero, Dier, Davies (Doherty, 86), Sessegnon (Perisic, 65); Bentancur (Bissouma, 86), Hojbjerg; Kuluveski (Lucas, 86), Son, Kane.
Unused subs: Sanchez, Spence, Bryan.
Booked: Sessegnon, Bentancur, Bissouma.
Saints: Bazunu; Walker-Peters (Redmond, 90), Valery (Stephens, h-t), Bednarek, Salisu, Djenepo (Perraud, 72); Lavia, Romeu (Diallo, 75), Ward-Prowse; Aribo, A Armstrong (S Armstrong, h-t).
Unused subs: Bella-Kotchap, Elyounoussi, Adams, McCarthy (g/k).
Referee: Andre Marriner.
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