SHEFFIELD: Southampton shrugged off the disappointment of losing Danny Ings to another injury by beating last-place Sheffield United 2-0 to end its nine-match winless run in the Premier League on Saturday.
The England striker walked off the field in the 12th minute with a suspected groin injury that was sustained off the ball and in seemingly innocuous circumstances at a free kick.
Southampton overcame Ings’ absence as his replacement, Che Adams, scored from a fierce 25-meter shot in the 49th minute to add to a penalty converted by James Ward-Prowse in the 32nd.
A first league win in more than two months moved Southampton 10 points clear of the bottom three and will alleviate fears that Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s team was being dragged into a relegation fight, despite a brilliant start to the season that saw it briefly in first place in November.
Sheffield United was destined for demotion to the second-tier Championship even before this 22nd loss of the campaign, with the team 12 points from safety.
Ings is set to spend a third spell on the sidelines because of injury this season. He has struggled with fitness issues in recent years, although managed to stay injury-free last season and finished second in the league’s scoring list.
“It doesn’t look so good,“ Hasenhuttl said. “When you see the history of our muscle injuries, you can be sure he will be out for a few weeks.”
It remains to be seen exactly how long this latest problem keeps him out, and Hasenhuttl will be happy fellow striker Adams got back scoring after a 16-match goal drought.
It was a superb strike, too, as Stuart Armstrong chested down the ball after a clearance by Sheffield United was blocked and Adams thrashed a rising shot into the net from outside the area.
Southampton had gone in front after Ethan Ampadu brought down Nathan Tella in the area. Ward-Prowse sent Aaron Ramsdale the wrong way from the spot.
The defeat could have been much heavier for the hosts, with Ramsdale saving well from Adams and Takumi Minamino shooting wide when free 10 meters out.
“I had a good feeling from the beginning, even when we lost Ingsy, as I felt we had the tools to beat them,“ Hasenhuttl said. “It is important we have 33 points now and it will let us sleep a little better.”
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder said it was a game too far for his depleted squad.
The Blades were without Phil Jagielka, Chris Basham, Jack O’Connell, John Egan, Jack Robinson, Jack Rodwell and Sander Berge through injury or suspension and were unable to build on their morale-boosting midweek win against Aston Villa.
“There wasn’t a lot in it in the first half but in the second half we looked tired in body and mind,“ Wilder said. “In the second half we made mistakes, gave the ball away cheaply and allowed them to build momentum.
“It was a difficult watch for me the second half today and the correct result happened. We needed some energy and spark and quality and we couldn’t find it.”