Bo­ufal brings re­lief to Saints

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

SOUTHAMP­TON: A su­perb goal by record sign­ing Sofi­ane Bo­ufal se­cured Southamp­ton a much-needed 1-0 win over Mid­dles­brough in their Premier League match yes­ter­day. Moroc­can in­ter­na­tional Bo­ufal - bought from French Ligue 1 side Lille in Au­gust for a re­ported £16 mil­lion ($20 mil­lion) - struck early in the sec­ond­half to give Saints just their sec­ond win in seven matches and pro­vide some suc­cor for ex­it­ing the Europa League last Thurs­day.

They move on to 20 points, eight clear of the rel­e­ga­tion zone whilst Mid­dles­brough re­main very much mired in a bat­tle for sur­vival as they are just three points clear of the bot­tom three. Bo­ufal’s goal made up for the ab­sence of Charlie Austin, who has ac­counted for nearly half their goals this sea­son but was ruled out with a shoul­der in­jury. Cer­tainly spec­ta­tors would not have been ex­pect­ing a goal feast in the two sides’ first Premier League meet­ing since 2005 as they had each found the net only 13 times apiece be­fore Sun­day’s match.

Boro were also miss­ing two of their most im­pres­sive per­form­ers from last Mon­day’s 1-0 win over fel­low strug­glers Hull, Gas­ton Ramirez and Al­varo Ne­gredo, both of whom are in­jured. Jor­dan Rhodes al­most made light of their ab­sence im­me­di­ately ghost­ing in with not a Saints de­fender in sight and fir­ing a shot on tar­get only for Fraser Forster to save. The hosts worked their way into the game af­ter early Boro dom­i­nance and Jay Ro­driguez forced Vic­tor Valdes into a smart save just af­ter the quar­ter of an hour mark.

Mid­dles­brough were de­nied by some sto­ical Southamp­ton de­fend­ing 10 min­utes be­fore the break as Vik­tor Fis­cher rounded Forster but his shot was blocked on the line and the fol­low up by Uruguayan Christhian Stu­ani was also stopped on the goal-line. Saints took ad­van­tage by tak­ing the lead early in the sec­ond-half. Bo­ufal, who was an in­jury doubt prior to the game, scor­ing with a su­perb left-footed ef­fort from the edge of the area round­ing off a move in­volv­ing five play­ers.

Mid­dles­brough were lack­ing in in­ven­tion and ideas and it was the hosts who came clos­est to scor­ing again, veteran North­ern Ire­land mid­fielder Steven Davis be­ing picked out by Cuco Martina, but his header went over the bar. Ro­driguez went even closer with an­other header but Adam Clay­ton re­acted bril­liantly to clear it off the line. Ro­driguez may have been un­lucky there but he was guilty of a com­plete howler in time added on as Nathan Red­mond did bril­liantly to square the ball across the goal line but Ro­driguez man­aged to some­how spoon it over from a yard out.

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