Second half goals from James Ward-Prowse and Graziano Pellè were enough for Southampton to see off Hull City at St Mary’s.
A result which perhaps looked straightforward pre-match was far from the case on this showing, with Saints a little laboured at times in this contest, but in the end, their superiority shone though.
The first half showed that the Tigers still have some fight in them as they battle against relegation, but a tactical switch at half-time was the catalyst in a change of fortunes. Ward-Prowse was introduced for the booked Wanyama, and when former Hull striker Shane Long was brought down inside the area, the England U21s man was on hand to convert the penalty which set Saints on their way to victory.
Ward-Prowse’s first Premier League goal was added to on 81 minutes by a first goal for Graziano Pellè since the FA Cup defeat to Crystal Palace in January, with the Italian converting from close range after Morgan Schneiderlin’s assist
A 15th clean sheet of the season added a touch of gloss to the success, as Ronald Koeman’s men completed a league double over the Tigers, to equal their best ever Premier League points tally.
Koeman was without Serbian midfielder Filip Djuričić for the game because of an ankle injury, while Florin Gardos also remained sidelined.
Steven Davis and Maya Yoshida each returned to the starting line-up, with the latter coming in for Nathaniel Clyne who was named amongst the substitutes.
Team skipper José Fonte started in his 200 league appearance for the club, playing alongside Yoshida at the heart of defence as Saints took up their positions in front of the Chapel stand where a partially shaded area was guarded by Kelvin Davis on a sunny afternoon inside St Mary’s.
There was nothing too bright about Hull striker Dame N’Doye’s first involvement in the match though. He played an under-hit pass back towards Steve Harper in the Tigers goal and Shane Long pounced on it to try and slot the hosts into an early lead. However, the Irishman’s touch just let him down at the crucial moment, with the ball heading out of play.
In an otherwise drab affair in the opening 45 minutes, it was the visitors who made the better start overall. Stephen Quinn cut in from the left side to feed the marauding Sone Aluko, who dragged a shot wide from the edge of the area with the first of his probing runs forward early on.
On six minutes, Aluko went one better by testing Kelvin Davis with an early strike from the right side of the area, which the ‘keeper got down to impressively.
Saints got a grip on the game, with Schneiderlin shooting wide, before Pellè made Steve Harper work for the first time in the match on 21 minutes. Long got the better of James Chester, to then play the ball across to the Italian striker, but the veteran ‘keeper stood firm to make a block with his legs.
Aluko went close again for City with a strike which fizzed wide of the left post, while Stephen Quinn also saw a shot into the ground bounce up and fall into the grateful arms of Kelvin Davis.
Bookings apiece for Pellè and Wanyama after the half hour mark were notes of frustration for the hosts, especially the latter, which sees Wanyama miss the next two matches for collecting his tenth yellow of the season.
Toby Alderweireld’s low strike from the right side of the area at the end of the half was gathered by Harper, bringing a low-key opening 45 minutes to a close.
James Ward-Prowse replaced Wanyama at the break as Saints slightly altered their approach to try and open up their opponents.
It remained a close fought contest though, and on 53 minutes the hosts required a brilliant one-handed stop from Kelvin Davis to deny Jake Livermore’s goalbound strike.
But in the flick of a switch, Saints were back on the front foot and they were awarded a penalty when Long was clipped inside the area by Alex Bruce as the striker bore down on goal.
Substitute Ward-Prowse stepped up to convert the penalty with assurance, going to the right corner and over the outstretched arm of Harper for the youngster’s first Premier League goal.
Hull almost sneaked a leveller with Bertrand having to clear from the line following a corner, prompting the hosts to make a second change with Dušan Tadić replacing Mané just past the hour, a move which saw Long move over to the left of the front three.
Saints continued to press against a hard-working opponent, with the Tigers desperate not to concede again as they tightened up defensively to keep it close heading onto the closing stages.
Yannick Sagbo was brought on by Steve Bruce as the visitors sought a leveller, but Saints extinguished that hope on 81 minutes when a burst forward finished by Graziano Pellè put the game out of Hull’s reach.
Alderweireld had retrieved the ball in midfield and the ball came back to Pellè following Tadić and Schneiderlin’s intervention, with the latter unselfishly laying the ball on a plate for the Italian to finish from inside the area into the bottom corner for 2-0.
Abel Hernandez was thrown on in place of Aluko in a change Hull had hoped to make before they conceded the second goal, but it was too little, too late for the visitors, who remain winless in Southampton since 1951.
Southampton team: Kelvin Davis, Maya Yoshida, José Fonte (c), Toby Alderweireld, Ryan Bertrand, Victor Wanyama (James Ward-Prowse 46), Morgan Schneiderlin, Steven Davis, Shane Long (Eljero Elia 74), Sadio Mané (Dušan Tadić 61), Graziano Pellè
Unused substitutes: Paulo Gazzaniga, Nathaniel Clyne, Harrison Reed, Matt Targett
Booked: Pellè, Wanyama
Goals: Ward-Prowse (pen) 56, Pellè (81)
Hull City team: Steve Harper, Alex Bruce, Michael Dawson (c), James Chester (Mohamed Diame 64), Paul McShane, Stephen Quinn, Tom Huddlestone (Yannick Sagbo 74), Jake Livermore, Ahmed Elmohamady, Sone Aluko (Abel Hernandez 84), Dame N’Doye
Unused substitutes: Allan McGregor, Liam Rosenior, Robbie Brady, Andrew Robertson
Referee: Kevin Friend
Attendance: 30,359 (including 811 away)