Built on Saints
5. Lifting the curse against Charlton
24th November 2001
It took a long time for Southampton to win at St Mary’s. From the first Premier League game at their new home to the first victory was an arduous journey for Gordon Strachan’s side, spanning three months and five failed attempts to take three points. Cue talk of a curse, with the stadium supposedly built on an ancient pagan burial site, but this was nothing a night under the lights could not fix, as Saints tore into Charlton in front of a new record crowd, playing like a team right at home. With the Addicks coming under increasing pressure, Marian Pahars headed the only goal of the game on the hour, dispatching a delicious cross from strike partner James Beattie. The curse was lifted, and Saints could look forward to many more wins in the years to come.
4. Tasting European success again
30th July 2015
This was exactly the sort of occasion St Mary’s was built for. Whilst The Dell was an uncompromising fortress where the mighty often fell, Saints needed to move with the times if they were to compete beyond the lower echelons of the Premier League. The dream was realised when Vitesse were put to the sword, as Saints claimed victory in Europe for the first time in 34 years. This was not St Mary’s’ first continental rodeo, having played host to a 1-1 draw against Steaua Bucharest back in 2003, but the club’s winless run in European competition had extended to nine games by the time their Dutch visitors were cast aside on a balmy summer evening. Graziano Pellè and Dušan Tadić were on target in the first half, while substitute Shane Long rounded off a convincing victory to underline Saints’ progress.
3. Toppling the big boys
Not so much one standalone game, but a trio of victories that announced Saints as serious contenders on their return to the Premier League. Whilst Nigel Adkins had masterminded back-to-back promotions from League One, the club had taken the brave decision to replace the fans’ favourite with little-known Argentinian Mauricio Pochettino midway through the first season back in the top flight. The new boss was looking nervously over his shoulder at the drop zone and still awaiting his first win when Manchester City came to town in February, but the reigning champions were blown away as Saints won 3-1 to mark their territory. Next month came successive home wins over Liverpool and Chelsea, as Pochettino stamped his authority on Southampton and English football as a whole, and Saints were transformed from relegation candidates into a team to fear.
2. Back in the promised land
28th April 2012
The crowning glory in the club’s renaissance at the start of the 2010s came on the final day of the Championship season, when three points stood between Saints and ending the seven-year wait for Premier League football to return to St Mary’s. The same scenario was true seven days before, but defeat at Middlesbrough meant Saints missed their chance, as a run of three defeats in six games threatened to derail a virtually flawless season. It would all come down to 90 minutes against Coventry on the day the club’s current attendance record was set. The 32,363 crowd had their nerves settled by quick-fire first-half goals from Billy Sharp and José Fonte, while Jos Hooiveld and Adam Lallana completed the rout to spark scenes of jubilation at St Mary’s.
1. Conquering Inter in the Europa League
3rd November 2016
After a near miss the previous season, this time Saints were in the Europa League proper, having safely booked their place in the group phase without the need to negotiate any tricky qualifiers. The prize was trips to Prague, Be’er Sheva and the mouth-watering prospect of Milan. After 7,000 Saints fans descended on the San Siro only to see a dominant display go unrewarded, St Mary’s welcomed Inter for the return fixture, and the home team had a score settle. For a while it seemed Saints’ luck was out again, as Mauro Icardi fired the visitors in front before Dušan Tadić missed a late first-half penalty. But the hosts played with renewed vigour after the restart and struck twice in five minutes to claim a famous victory, as Virgil van Dijk equalised and Yuto Nagatomo put through his own net to send the stadium into a frenzy.