Southampton recorded a vital 1-0 win at relegation rivals Swansea on Tuesday night at the Liberty Stadium to all-but confirm their top-flight status.
Saints record vital win in Wales
The first half was a very tight affair as expected. There were very few clear-cut chances, although Swansea midfielder Sam Clucas and Southampton striker Charlie Austin both had half-chances in a close first period.
The second half produced a bit more action, though. Swansea forward Jordan Ayew cut in from the left and fired an effort from around 20 yards, only for Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy to produce a brilliant fingertip save to deny Ghana international.
The visitors threatened at the other end in the 6oth minute, as striker Charlie Austin headed a Cedric cross straight at Swans goalkeeper from just eight yards out. The vital moment arrived with just 18 minutes left on the clock. A penalty area scramble lead to Saints substitute Manolo Gabbiadini poking home from close range after Austin had seen an effort blocked in the penalty area.
The team from the south coast could have wrapped things up, but Shane Long hit the side-netting with Gabbiadini standing in a far better position. In the end, another goal was not needed, as Swansea once again failed to produce going forward.
The relegation permutations
This game had big implications in the race to avoid the drop. The victory for Mark Hughes side mean they are three points clear of the Swans and above 17thplace Huddersfield by virtual of goal difference. However, due to their vastly superior goal difference, the Saints will not suffer relegation unless something incredible happens on the final day of the campaign.
The result also meant that West Brom will be playing in the Championship next season, despite a recent good run of form under interim boss Darren Moore. The Baggies are unbeaten in five games under the former centre-back.
The situation now seems simple, as either Swansea or Huddersfield look set to take the third relegation spot. Huddersfield face a trip to Chelsea this evening after they recorded a solid goalless draw at champions Manchester City last time out. They also host travel sick Arsenal on the last day of the season. However, that last day result will be meaningless if they can somehow pull off a draw at Stamford Bridge.
That looks unlikely and Swansea have an advantage of two in the goal difference stakes. Swansea host already relegated Stoke on the last day of the season at the Liberty Stadium, only a victory will do for the Swans.
The fixture looks attractive, but Carlos Carvalhal’s team has failed to win in their last eight top-flight games, while also losing their last four league games. The fact that they have also failed to score in their last four matches is a worry heading into that potentially decisive game against Stoke.
The bookmakers make the Swans the favourites to suffer relegation, as Huddersfield only need to pick up one point from their final two league games to ensure their top-flight status for next season.
Who will join West Brom and Stoke in the Championship next season?