Martina magic sees Southampton stop rot and deny Arsenal top spot
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | December 26, 2015
Southampton 4-0 Arsenal
- Solo strike from Saints right back Martina on rare start gives hosts lead
- Republic of Ireland frontman Long doubles home advantage
- Skipper of hosts Fonte seals victory with header from corner
- Gunners suffer first loss since Bayern battered them
- Arsenal denied opportunity to go top as needed victory at St Mary’s
- Southampton win for first game in seven matches
Four-star Saints thwart Gunners
Arsenal missed the chance to climb top of the Premier League, as Southampton ended a six-match winless streak in all competitions courtesy of an emphatic strike from Cuco Martina, two fine finishes from Shane Long, and Jose Fonte’s set-piece header.
Forget bend it like Beckham or that often replayed Roberto Carlos free-kick, the Saints’ Dutch-born defender struck sublimely with the outside of his boot to catapult him out of obscurity into Boxing Day headlines.
Only in the team because first-choice full back Cedric Soares had a groin problem, Martina’s magnificent effort set the St Mary’s side on their way to a rampant and entirely unexpected 4-0 victory.
Public criticism of Southampton’s players by head coach Ronald Koeman produced the response of a flurry of early pressure, but the source of their opener inside 20 minutes proved a huge surprise.
Martina makes most of full league debut
Representing the Caribbean island of Curacao, Netherlands native right back Martina had never started a Premier League game before, so when this unknown quantity latched onto Ryan Bertrand’s half-cleared cross few expected what followed.
If you missed it, here’s Cuco Martina’s absolute beauty of a goal! Take a bow son! https://t.co/YGAwvcXNv8
— FantasyFooty Updates (@Fpl_Updates) December 26, 2015
Using the outside of his favoured foot, Martina drilled a half-volley from more than 25 yards past a motionless Petr Cech in the Gunners goal into the far corner.
Defensive mistakes from Arsenal invited further forays from Southampton, with Northern Ireland’s Steven Davis miscuing when gifted the chance to pull the trigger by Laurent Koscielny being distracted by Long.
Value for their half-time lead with Long also going close, the only real worry for Saints came when Olivier Giroud’s physical presence helped tee up Gunners left back Nacho Monreal, but his shot went straight at the returning Maarten Stekelenburg.
Arsenal assists machine Mesut Ozil saw himself shackled by deep-lying Southampton duo Jordy Clasie and Victor Wanyama, who has often been linked with the Gunners or north London neighbours Tottenham.
Saints centre half Virgil van Dijk had the ball in the net less than five minutes into the second half from a set-piece, but a raised flag cut short celebrations. Gunners goalie Cech got clattered by the Dutch defender, but was picking the ball out moments later.
Win long time coming for Saints
Long survived Arsenal appeals as he tripped Koscielny to sidefoot home from seven yards – and double Southampton’s lead – when Sadio Mane found the Republic of Ireland centre forward with a lovely right-wing cross to the back post on the break.
Home side skipper Fonte secured the three points with a thumping header from Bertrand’s corner, as the frailties of zonal marking were exposed to the Gunners. Replays seemed to show that a set-piece should not have been given by referee Jon Moss in the first place.
Koeman brought Serbia attacking midfielder Dusan Tadic off the Saints bench, and he brought a fine stop out of Czech with a long-range effort.
Another title race twist
Long also hit the base of the far post late on before icing a fabulous 4-0 victory with a second strike in stoppage time, as Southampton ended Arsenal’s run of four straight games in stunning fashion.
To see Koeman’s men respond to their dismal form without top scorer Graziano Pelle was incredible! The Gunners saw their Premier League title credentials dented here, with Coral changing their odds from 11/10 to 13/8, as lucky Leicester City remain at the summit ahead of a huge showdown with Manchester City on Tuesday.
Check out more festive football by visiting Coral’s dedicated section to the beautiful game.