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Southampton victory delivers best start to season for 31 years

On-loan defender Ryan Bertrand opened his Saints account to hand the hosts the lead before Charlie Austin blasted home on the turn.

Italian striker Pelle trumped Austin's smart finish with a true showman's goal to secure Saints' fourth win in six Premier League ties this term.

Former Southampton boss Redknapp received the hate-filled welcome he anticipated, after quitting Saints for bitter rivals Portsmouth in 2005.

The ex-Tottenham boss was subjected to vitriolic chanting from home supporters, but would have chuckled to himself when Austin stole the second half equaliser.

The former bricklayer had a fine chance to double his tally, but headed wide, while Nico Kranjcar also hit the woodwork with a fine free-kick.

The ex-Portsmouth midfielder fired a set-piece goal to steal QPR a point against Stoke last weekend, but was just unable to repeat the feat at St Mary's.

Pelle's stunning volley won the day however, the £8million summer recruit notching his fifth Southampton goal.

Southampton's victory kept them second in the table, after Chelsea eased past Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge, to continue new boss Ronald Koeman's fine Premier League start.

Dusan Tadic spent the first half gamely battling to cajole Southampton's staccato attack into something resembling fluency.

Despite his best efforts however the hosts were unable to break the deadlock before the break, even with QPR remaining largely toothless up front.

Morgan Schneiderlin squandered the chance of the half, screwing his low shot well wide after being sent clean through by Sadio Mane.

Serbia striker Tadic wasted a gilt-edged chance himself, unable to connect cleanly enough in the box to provide the power to beat Rob Green.

The relieved Rangers keeper tapped wide at full stretch when Tadic should have buried his point-blank effort.

None of Saints' big men were able to meet Tadic's early whipped free-kick with any accuracy early on and that missed opportunity set a frustrating tone for the opening exchanges.

Pelle fired wide of Green's left post when he could have aimed across goal too, as Saints continued their wasteful half.

Eduardo Vargas and Austin spent precious little time combining with their midfield to offer any tangible threat for Rangers, but Kranjcar and Leroy Fer had to shoulder their share of blame for not bridging the divide.

Matt Phillips blasted high and wide after a botched clearance from Nathaniel Clyne, before Austin chipped wide in first-half stoppage time.

Redknapp's men were fortunate to turn around on level terms, desperately hoping to grow in stature with every chance Saints fluffed.

Just when the visitors thought they could frustrate Southampton into a costly error though, Koeman's men opened the scoring.

Mane's prescient back heel opened the QPR defence, Bertrand raced through the door and blasted the ball under Green to wrestle control for Saints in the 54th minute.

Austin disabused any Saints notions of coasting to victory with a fine finish 12 minutes later, firing home on the spin after controlling Vargas' cross.

Rangers' return to level terms was meant to stun Saints into a state of shock, but instead the hosts struck straight back.

A peripheral figure for much of the afternoon, Pelle forced the tie to turn on his acrobatic finish.

The Italian striker teed himself up before unleashing an unstoppable scissor-kick blast into the top corner to put Saints 2-1 to the good only two minutes after the visitors had levelled.

Steven Davis rattled the woodwork from 20 yards as Saints pressed again, before Austin headed wide in another fine opportunity for QPR.

Kranjcar hit the angle of post and bar for QPR as Redknapp's men ground on in search of a second equaliser.

Tadic struck a post as the match edged into stoppage time, but Saints eased to victory despite failing to add a third goal.


Southampton's first league win at Craven Cottage since 1947

The rainbow over Craven Cottage led to a pot of gold for Southampton Credit: John Walton/PA Wire

Only two of the new arrivals, Lewis Holtby and William Kvist, were registered in time to feature against Saints, who spent much of the first half on the backfoot and had goalkeeper Artur Boruc to thank for keeping the score level.

Fulham were made to pay for those missed opportunities in the second period as Southampton ruthlessly exposed their soft underbelly, with Adam Lallana opening the scoring after 64 minutes with a superb strike across the face of goal.

Rickie Lambert netted his 100th league goal for Saints six minutes later, before the visitors' other England international, Jay Rodriguez, curled home exquisitely in front of the watching national team manager Roy Hodgson.

While Bent saw a handball appeal turned down at the other end, it was Southampton in control.

Lambert was left frustrated after he could not make the most of a hashed clearance, only to then turn provider for the opening goal.

Collecting the ball just inside the Fulham half, the England forward played a wonderfully-weighted ball for Lallana to impressively fire low past Stekelenburg.

The 64th minute goal extended Fulham's wait for a clean sheet to a ninth match - the longest run in the top division - and they almost conceded again soon after.

Only a late block saw a Steven Davis strike wide, before Lallana started a great counter-attack and fed the ball to the overlapping Shaw, whose low cross was prodded wide by Rodriguez.

Southampton did not have to wait long for another goal, though.

Nathaniel Clyne, on as a 58th-minute substitute for the injured Chambers, sent in a fine low ball from the right, which, thanks to an intelligent stepover by Rodriguez, fell perfectly for Lambert to slot home.

Rodriguez's selflessness was rewarded in the 75th minute with a goal of his own. Lambert's long ball to the forward was controlled by his fellow England international, who cut inside away from Hangeland and curled home brilliantly into the top right-hand corner.

Fulham's manager Rene Meulensteen (left) with Southampton's manager Mauricio Pochettino before the start of the match Credit: John Walton/PA Wire

Substitute Pajtim Kasami curled wide as Fulham looked to reduce the deficit in the closing stages, but they failed to threaten Boruc as Southampton won a league game at Fulham for the first time since October 1947.

Southampton's Rickie Lambert (second left) is congratulated on scoring their second goa Credit: John Walton/PA Wire
Southamptopn's Adam Lallana celebrates scoring Credit: John Walton/PA Wire

Saints move up to third place in the Premier League

Southampton's Jay Rodriguez celebrates scoring his side's second goal with his team-mates Credit: Chris Ison/PA Wire

Mauricio Pochettino's side dominated from the outset at St Mary's, with Fulham failing to muster a single shot in a first-half in which headers from Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez put the hosts deservedly ahead.

Only Maarten Stekelenburg's fine form, the goal frame and bad luck prevented Saints racking up an even greater margin of victory, as they secured a sixth clean sheet of the campaign - a far cry from the 26 goals they had conceded at the same stage of last season.

Southampton's Victor Wanyama (right) and Fulham's Dimitar Berbatov battle for the ball Credit: Chris Ison/PA Wire
Southampton's Dejan Lovren (left) and Fulham's Hugo Rodallega battle for possession Credit: Chris Ison/PA Wire

Adam Lallana scored the equaliser at Old Trafford and was almost involved in another goal after five minutes on the south coast.

The Saints captain dispossessed dawdling Philippe Senderos and went onto test Stekelenburg, whose parry would have been slotted home by Morgan Schneiderlin was it not for Fernando Amorebieta's clearance off the line.

Lambert fired a tame effort straight at Stekelenburg as Saints' fine start continued, before Senderos reacted quickly to stop the England international putting Rodriguez through on goal.

Another deep cross, this time from Lallana, found Lambert, whose looping header back across the goal was nodded home by Rodriguez.

It was one of 14 shots** **Southampton managed in a dominant first half, with play continuing in the same direction after the restart for which Aaron Hughes replaced Riether.


Southampton's best start to the season for 30 years

Southampton's Rickie Lambert (left) scores the opening goal against Fulham Credit: Chris Ison/PA Wire

First-half headers from Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert proved the difference at St Mary's where Fulham were fortunate to escape on the end of just a 2-0 defeat.

The three points propelled Saints to third in the Barclays Premier League and made this a better start than they managed when finishing runners-up in 1983/84.

When asked if a similar finish was possible, Pochettino said "I don't know" in English and with a smile but believes there are no barriers stopping his side.

"I want to congratulate my players because they put in an extraordinary performance today," the former Argentina defender said.

While unlikely to match the second-place finish of 19 years ago, there is growing talk that European qualification is a possibility.

Saints boasted 67 per cent of possession in this evening's clash and completed 549 passes in contrast to Fulham's 234 - not that Pochettino is bothered.

Pochettino praises Southampton as they win again

Southampton manger Mauricio Pochettino during the Barclays Premier League match at St Marys, Credit: Clive Gee/PA Wire

It was the latest of several impressive performances from the Saints skipper, who manager Pochettino believes could well be next in line to represent England.

"I'm very happy for Adam," he said of Lallana, who was called up for England's World Cup qualifier with Ukraine in September 2012 but did not play.

Southampton's Adam Lallana (centre) celebrates with his team mates after scoring the opening goal of the game Credit: Clive Gee/PA Wore

"He's a great bloke and a great professional and he's very passionate about this club, about Southampton, so I'm happy for him.

Southampton's Jay Rodriguez (right) is congratulated by Southampton's Danny Fox (left) after scoring his sides second goal of the game Credit: Clive Gee/PA Wire

Pochettino also heaped praise on goalkeeper Artur Boruc, who pulled off a string of fine saves as Southampton recorded a fifth clean sheet of the season.

Swansea's Angel Rangel (left) and Southampton's Steven Davis battle for the ball Credit: Clive Gee/PA Wire

"He was incredible," Southampton boss Pochettino said of the Poland international. "He did ever so well, but it just shows we have full trust in his performances and his skill, and also in our other keepers.

Three wins in a row for Southampton

Having risen up the leagues to lead the line for his country, Lambert's heroics for the Three Lions have captured the nation's heart.

The 31-year-old has not yet managed to produce the same form for Saints, who are flying high after claiming three wins on the trot. The latest came against Swansea on Sunday, with captain Lallana opening the scoring in a hard-fought, and somewhat fortuitous, 2-0 win at St Mary's.

It was the latest of several impressive performances from the Saints skipper, who manager Pochettino believes could well be next in line to represent England.

Saints go fourth in Premier League

Southampton's Rickie Lambert celebrates scoring his side's second goal with team mates Credit: Daniel Hambury/PA Wire

Pochettino spoke before the season about challenging for Champions League qualification in the next couple of years and he believes that the start to the season can be maintained.

Southampton's Adam Lallana and Crystal Palace's Dean Moxey Credit: Daniel Hambury/PA Wire

"We are not setting ourselves any limits," he said.

"We just have to keep on believing and the players believe fully in how we want them to play. We are now going to have to work harder because teams know more about us and will respect us a little more now."

With Osvaldo and Lambert netting their first goals since being partnered in attack and his defence again proving impenetrable Pochettino hailed the perfect day for his side.

Southampton's Dani Osvaldo and Crystal Palace's Joel Ward battle it out at St Mary's Credit: Daniel Hambury/PA Wire

"I think it is complete happiness for every manager is what happened today, a clean sheet and your two strikers getting on the scoresheet," he said.

"In the second half we were much better than the first half and over the 90 minutes we were the better team.

Southampton's Rickie Lambert celebrates scoring his side's second goal with manager Mauricio Pochettino Credit: Daniel Hambury/PA Wire

"We struggled a bit in the first half to understand the set-up of the game but after the break we corrected certain things and that allowed us to play much better in the second half."

The result leaves Palace with three points from their first six games since returning to the top flight. Full coverage of today's fixtures on the ITV Sport website here

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