Southampton secured back-to-back Premier League wins for the first time since December, overcoming already-relegated Fulham 3-1 at St Mary’s.
The hosts took the lead in the 27th minute from the game’s first shot on target as Che Adams fired home from close range following a James Ward-Prowse free-kick.
They doubled their lead on the hour mark when substitute Nathan Tella tapped the ball into the net just minutes after coming on to the field, his first senior goal in professional football.
Fabio Carvalho marked his full Premier League debut by pulling one back for Fulham in the 75th minute. The 18-year-old was played through by Bobby Decordova-Reid and fired the ball in off the underside of the crossbar.
Substitute Theo Walcott soon restored Southampton’s two-goal lead as his deflected shot went past Alphonse Areola to secure a second home win in a week for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side.
More south coast misery for Fulham
Fulham travelled south seeking a response after their return to the Championship was confirmed following the 2-0 home defeat to Burnley last Monday but carrying a wretched record of having failed to win in their previous 20 visits to Southampton stretching back to 1935.
Scott Parker handed 18-year-old Fabio Carvalho a full Premier League debut as the Fulham boss looked to the future, but chances were at a premium during the opening period.
Ola Aina’s mistake allowed Adams to find the run inside from Takumi Minamino but the Fulham full-back atoned for his error to make a crucial last-ditch intervention.
Aina was partially at fault when Saints struck first, however. Stuart Armstrong was fouled by Joachim Andersen, and from Ward-Prowse’s resulting free-kick, Adams stole a march on the defender to prod home a simple half-volley from three yards out.
Southampton were fully imposing themselves now and Ward-Prowse came close to extending their lead when his free-kick was punched away by Alphonse Areola.
- Jan Bednarek failed his fitness test as Mohammed Salisu started in his place. Alex McCarthy replaced Fraser Forster in goal with Kayne Ramsay being added to the bench.
- Scott Parker handed a full Premier League debut to 18-year-old Fabio Carvalho. Ola Aina replaced Antonee Robinson at left-back while there were further changes in midfield as Josh Onomah and Harrison Reed started in place of Mario Lemina and Ademola Lookman.
Fulham had rarely threatened before the interval, with Carvalho’s weak shot easily fielded by the returning Alex McCarthy but there were no changes at the restart.
Southampton had won only one of their previous six league games in which they had scored first, but they came close to a second when another whipped Ward-Prowse corner was flicked on by Danny Ings, only for Minamino to be caught on his toes at the far post.
It would prove to be Ings’ final contribution as he was replaced by Tella shortly before the hour-mark – and Nathan Redmond immediately ought to have extended Saints’ lead when put through by Adams, but his shot was well saved by Areola.
Fulham’s reprieve would be short-lived, however, as Southampton doubled their advantage following a slick team move. Minamino and Start Armstrong combined in midfield before Kyle Walker-Peters’ cross was swept home by the unmarked Tella.
Parker rung the changes as Joe Bryan was introduced, and the full-back’s arrowing shot very nearly halved the arrears as it whistled past the post. The former Bristol City defender then found Decordova-Reid following a slaloming run, but Mohammed Salisu got back to make a vital block.
Fulham deservedly hauled themselves back into the contest when Carvalho was put through by Decordova-Reid to flash his shot beyond McCarthy and in via the underside of the crossbar, becoming the club’s third-youngest Premier League scorer aged 18 years and 260 days.
Having lost 23 points from winning positions, Hasenhuttl may have feared the worst but his side eased any fears of another late surrender as substitute Walcott latched onto Tella’s cute backheel to strike beyond Areola via the boot of the retreating Bryan.
Southampton host Leeds in the Premier League, live on Sky Sports Premier League, on Tuesday; kick-off: 6pm. Meanwhile, Fulham travel to face Manchester United at Old Trafford at the same kick-off time, live on Sky Sports Main Event.