Southampton 1 West Brom 0: Boufal stunner ends Saints' winless run
Sofiane Boufal's majestic solo goal five minutes from time spared Southampton from more home frustration as they saw off West Brom 1-0 at St Mary's.
The Morocco international came off the bench to slalom past several defenders and slide home in the 85th minute, one of few moments of quality in a tight Premier League tussle on Saturday.
Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino admitted ahead of the match that his players are susceptible to anxiety at home and their nerves threatened to spill over after an encouraging first half failed to generate a goal.
Former Southampton striker Jay Rodriguez spurned a gilt-edged chance to punish his former side and Dusan Tadic was also culpable of wasting a good opening for the hosts after half-time.
But Boufal, who had only been on the pitch for four minutes, finally discovered the required quality to earn his side a first win in four Premier League matches.
West Brom, who lost Jonny Evans to an early shoulder injury, are now winless in seven league fixtures, with little respite to come at home next weekend as Tony Pulis' men host leaders Manchester City.
Sofiane Boufal's MAGICAL goal wins it at St Mary's!! pic.twitter.com/Ju7uSsiWup
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) October 21, 2017
Veteran midfielder Gareth Barry fired wide with the first attempt from either side when his shot from distance brushed the side-netting of Fraser Forster's goal.
The opening exchanges were otherwise predictably cagey until Ryan Bertrand's curling free-kick clipped the outside of the right post, the ball aided on its way by a marginal deflection off Evans' head.
Southampton took that as their cue to increase the tempo, Tadic drawing a comfortable save from Ben Foster, before Oriol Romeu directed a bouncing corner around the upright with a hurried shot on the turn.
And the hosts should have made it 1-0 when, after appeals for handball against Virgil van Dijk were waved away at one end, Manolo Gabbiadini raced to the other and saw Shane Long poke his low pass the wrong side of the near post.
Pellegrino's side were given more encouragement on the half-hour as a heavy fall forced Evans off with a shoulder injury, although Foster's smart save from a Maya Yoshida header meant they were unable to take advantage before half-time.
0 - Five of the last nine Premier League games between Southampton and West Brom have been goalless at half-time. Drab.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 21, 2017
The primary creator in the first half, Gabbiadini looked to take the responsibility of scoring upon himself by twice trying his luck within five minutes of the restart.
West Brom soon issued a reminder of their threat on the counter-attack when Rodriguez broke a high line and went clean through for a one-on-one, but the striker inexplicably screwed his finish wide.
Serbia international Tadic should also have done better when confronted with a good opportunity in the other penalty area, the forward taking too long over his finish and allowing Foster to smother.
But the mounting tension at St Mary's was finally relieved late in normal time as substitute Boufal conjured up the necessary magic to give Southampton just their second home victory of the campaign.