Eighty-five minutes of frustration and angst dissipated in less than ten seconds for Southampton supporters. And all thanks to an unlikely hero.

When Sofiane Boufal collected possession deep in his own half there appeared little danger. How wrong that belief was. The Moroccan international was single-minded in his approach and burst upfield with the ball.

He weaved past several challenges – West Bromwich Albion defenders frantically trying to halt the Moroccan international to no avail – before shifting the ball onto his right foot.

It was now a test of Boufal's composure and one he passed in style. The winger remained calm and slotted the ball into the far corner beyond the dive of Ben Foster.

The goal was a moment of exquisite class in a game that lacked quality throughout. It was fittingly the winner and earned Southampton a much needed victory that lifts the club to tenth in the Premier League table.

For West Brom, it was another failure. The Baggies may be 13th in the table but they haven't won a game this season since August and struggled for much of the contest at St Mary's.

And it's with the Baggies that we begin the five things we learned from the game…

Pulis' methods must be questioned

The Baggies had won just two of their previous 17 Premier League matches ahead of their trip to St Mary's. That meant Tony Pulis' side had taken just 12 points from the last possible 51.

Those figures now read two victories from 18 top flight matches and only 12 points taken from a potential 54; undoubtedly relegation form.

Pulis must now come under scrutiny from the West Brom hierarchy. There is no doubt he is an effective manager, his record more than proves that. But, as Stoke City discovered, he has his limitations.

The Welshman can set-up a side to defend well and look to exploit the opposition's weaknesses from set-pieces. Beyond that, however, he is tactically limited, as West Brom fans know all too well.

His football isn't entertaining but when the Baggies are winning games that can be forgiven. They're no longer doing that though and are sliding down the table.

Pulis' methods must now be questioned. Defending isn't a crime, despite Jose Mourinho's claims, and they have talented players who need to be given the opportunity to express themselves.

At St Mary's Nacer Chadli and Jay Rodriguez were deployed on the flanks of an attacking three, but the duo spent the majority of the contest, especially in the first half, tracking back and forming what essentially became a midfield six.

It's clear Pulis' ambition is to not lose, instead of trying to win. An ideology which is failing at the moment.

West Brom manager Tony Pulis

Southampton need an attacking shake-up

Mauricio Pellegrino's side have struggled for goals and perhaps confidence this season. The Saints had netted just seven times before the clash against the Baggies and given how Pulis set-up his side, the onus was on the Saints to win the game.

And while they kept the ball neatly throughout the contest, Southampton lacked the guile and pace to create significant opportunities to break the deadlock – until Boufal took over.

Far too often patient attacks from the hosts would break down on the edge of the West Bromwich Albion penalty area. Southampton didn't have the invention to find a way through.

It culminated in the Saints putting in a number of crosses which, given the stature of West Brom's centre-backs, wasn't an effective tactic and the home side's supporters understandably became frustrated.

It's a problem Pellegrino must solve in the coming weeks. There is talent in Southampton's midfield – Mario Lemina again impressed – while Manolo Gabbiadini will score goals if chances are created.

The Argentine just has to find the right structure and system to bring out the best of his attacking talents. At the moment, he is failing to do so.

Van Dijk getting back to his best

After nine months on the sidelines, largely because of injury but also down to the Dutchman trying to engineer a move to Liverpool in the summer, van Dijk looked rusty in his first two Premier League starts of the season.

In his third appearance, however, van Dijk looked back to his composed and authoritative best.

Admittedly he had to deal with Salomón Rondón and little else, but the Holland international didn't put a foot wrong.

He made two interceptions and six clearances and was also important in helping Southampton build attacks. With West Brom sitting deep, there was little space in the final third. That mean van Dijk could move into midfield in an attempt to break down the Baggies.

One first half shot on goal from 35 yards came close while he played one key pass in the opening 45 minutes, the same amount as Oriol Romeu and Gabbiadini.

You expect van Dijk will continue to improve in the coming weeks as his mach fitness improves.

And then the Saints will again have to go through the whole process of keeping the centre-back out of the clutches of bigger clubs in January.

Permanent Hegazi deal an eventuality

There wouldn't have been too many West Brom fans familiar with the Egyptian international when he joined the club on loan in the summer from Al Ahly, but he has quickly become one of the first names on Pulis' team-sheet.

The 26-year-old possesses all the traits a West Brom centre-back needs. He's powerful, reads the game well and can head crosses out of his side's penalty area for 90 minutes. Hegazi is also, however, comfortable with the ball at his feet and can break lines with his passing.

“Ahmed’s a really good player and a big old bloke,” Baggies goalkeeper Ben Foster told the club's website. “But put the ball at his feet and he’s more than comfortable with it. He’s got a lovely range of passing, he’s strong and physical – a perfect fit for us.”

Against Southampton he made more clearances (9) than any other West Brom player on the pitch and also made four interceptions.

West Brom can turn Hegazi's loan into a permanent deal for £3.5million and you expect that option to be taken up sooner rather than later.

Boufal Finally Shows his Quality At Southampton

Southampton goal, Sofiane Boufal

In the summer of 2016 the Moroccan was a wanted man after an impressive season with Lille in which he had scored 12 goals and registered four assists in all competitions.

Interest from the Premier League was strong with Watford leading the chase to sign Boufal from the French club. The Hornets thought they were going to land their man only for Southampton to steal in and clinch his signing for a club-record fee of around £16million.

Unsurprisingly much was expected of Boufal but he never justified that price-tag during an unspectacular first season in English football. During the 2016/17 campaign he netted just once in 24 Premier League games and failed to establish himself in the starting XI.

It has been a similar story during the opening two months of the current campaign with the forward just starting one game under Pellegrino. But with the Saints struggling to break down West Brom, the Southampton boss turned to the unpredictable Boufal and was rewarded.

Boufal admitted after the game that he was angry to be on the bench once again and wanted to prove to his manager that he deserved to start games. He certainly did that with his goal but now the challenge is for Boufal to prove himself when given a place in the first XI.

If he can do that then Southampton may finally have the player they thought they were getting for £16million.

 

Premier League