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Southampton 2-0 Fulham Prem 09 1314 The Guardian

last updated Monday 28th October 2013, 10:24 AM

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Paul Doyle at The Guardian

Southampton (2) 2 Fulham (0) 0

The rise of Southampton continues and the question now is how high can they go? They have never started a top-flight season as well as this - 18 points from their first nine matches surpasses even the tally amassed in 1983-84 when, under Lawrie McMenemy, the club went on to achieve their best finish, runners-up in the league to Liverpool. They stand third in the table and this display suggested that no one is going to bring them down easily. They were far too good for feeble Fulham.

Giddy dreams are dancing into the heads of Southampton supporters and whereas many managers would try to tame them, Mauricio Pochettino is happy to talk up his team's chances. "The sky is the limit for us," said the Argentinian. "I want to congratulate the players for this extraordinary performance. The most important thing is to keep on learning, keep on improving and keep on playing as a team."

Martin Jol's team are not the sort of side who would seek to stifle their hosts, striving instead to outscore them, a bold approach against a defence that under Pochettino has been transformed from the most porous to the most solid in the Premier League.

By contrast, Fulham have been defensively flaky all term and, faced with the hosts' fervid pressing, they quickly cracked. They were caught attempting to play their way out from the back in the fifth minute and fortunate to be saved by Fernando Amorebieta, who cleared a Morgan Schneiderlin shot off the line. Southampton looked fitter, slicker and eager to confirm their superiority with a goal.

Fulham began erecting human barricades around their box so effectively that Southampton did not worry Maarten Stekelenburg again until the 17th minute, when Victor Wanyama unleashed a shot from 20 yards. It flew just wide. Three minutes later Fulham's resistance was broken in a predictable manner.

Their slackness from set pieces has been a persistent problem this season and it resurfaced here, as Jay Rodriguez was allowed to flick on a James Ward-Prowse corner at the near post and Rickie Lambert was left free to head into the net at the back post. Since the summer arrival of the Italy striker Daniel Osvaldo, Lambert is no longer guaranteed a regular start at the club but, after being left out for last week's draw at Manchester United, he returned here, thanks partially to an injury to Osvaldo, and showed that he is still a vital player for club - and perhaps his country, too. "He is an amazingly important player for this club," said Pochettino. "Hopefully he can keep putting in performances like this and [England] will more than likely take him to Brazil."

Southampton almost doubled their lead immediately, Rodriguez skipping through Fulham's defence from half-way - notably nutmegging Philippe Senderos en route - and then poking a shot towards the bottom corner. Stekelenburg tipped it wide. Lambert then beat the goalkeeper with a ferocious low drive from 20 yards but it bounced back off the butt of the post. Lambert tried again in the 38th minute but Stekelenburg saved his close-range header. Southampton's inevitable second goal arrived just before the break. Lallana sent the ball to the back post where Lambert had again eluded the defenders and he headed back across goal for Rodriguez to nod into the net.

Jol adjusted his defence at half-time, replacing Sascha Riether with Aaron Hughes, but within a minute of the resumption Southampton threatened again, Lambert prodding just wide from a Luke Shaw cross.

As for Fulham attacks, there were rumours they might mount one but it was difficult to see how they could. The paradox of Jol's team is that they play with a sense of adventure bordering on the reckless but at a pace close to leisurely. Southampton suppressed them with ease. By the hour mark the St Mary's crowd were belting out jubilant ol├ęs as their team popped the ball through the opposition almost at will. Rodriguez almost added to the merriment in the 70th minute but his flamboyant scissors-kick hurtled inches wide. "The first half I felt we could have been on the end of a hammering, so to come away with a 0-0 in the second half was the only good thing," groaned Jol.

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