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Strike duo Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez lifted Southampton up to third place in the Barclays Premier League as Fulham were beaten 2-0 at St Mary’s Stadium.
England striker Rickie Lambert was a substitute in the draw at Manchester United last weekend, but marked his return to the starting line-up by scoring his third Saints goal this season following an assist from Rodriguez.
Saints dominated the first half and were rewarded with a second goal just before the break, when Lambert this time presented Rodriguez with a simple opportunity to head home from close range.
Mauricio Pochettino's side have made their best start in the top-flight for 30 years and can boast the best defensive record in the league, having conceded just three times in their first nine games. Fulham, on the other hand, now find themselves 14th in the table.
Lambert replaced big-money signing Dani Osvaldo, who was not even on the bench, while midfielder James Ward-Prowse was recalled to the starting line-up in place of the injured Steven Davis.
Fernando Amorebieta replaced captain Brede Hangeland in the Fulham side after the Norway defender was ruled out due a nerve problem in his leg, while forward Bryan Ruiz (back) was passed fit.
Saints were almost gifted the lead after just four minutes as Philippe Senderos dallied on the ball and was robbed by Adam Lallana. He picked out Morgan Schneiderlin, whose shot was destined for the back of the net until Amorebieta intervened.
The home side moved in front after 20 minutes when Ward-Prowse's corner was flicked on by Rodriguez and an unmarked Lambert nodded home at the far post.
Rodriguez almost doubled his side’s advantage a minute later as he breached the Fulham defence far too easily and only a fine fingertip save from Maarten Stekelenburg prevented a fine individual goal.
The Cottagers were struggling to contain the home side and Lambert rattled the post with a venomous drive from just outside the penalty area before Stekelenburg kept out another Lambert header.
It was only a matter of time before Saints increased their lead and two minutes before the break Lambert returned the favour to Rodriguez, guiding a header across goal for his strike partner to nod in.
Saints were not quite as fluent in the second half, but Rodriguez came close to a spectacular third goal when he volleyed wide after 68 minutes.
Steve Sidwell was off target with a shot eight minutes from time, yet Fulham never really threatened to make life difficult for their hosts.
Lallana almost had the final word when he ended a run with a shot that took a big deflection and landed on the roof of the net but the Saints’ captain will be more than happy with his side’s confortable victory.
Southampton head coach Mauricio Pochettino: "I want to congratulate my players because they put in an extraordinary performance today. It is not just about my players that are playing regularly, but also that are not playing regularly and are on the bench. It shows that we believe as a collective, we are playing as a collective and reaping the results from that.
"I have been saying for a couple of weeks now that the sky is the limit. We don't set ourselves any limits. The most important thing is that we keep on learning, that we keep on improving, that we keep on playing as a team. The position in the league now is not important, the main thing is that we continue improving."
"I think statistics are evil. They don't really show anything. Today it is okay as we win, but when you lose they are not as important. I think more than anything today it is about how we played aside from the three points, aside from getting the victory. Statistics are relative and more than anything I am satisfied with how we won today."
Fulham manager Martin Jol: "The first half I really felt we could be on the end of a hammering today and to come away with a 0-0 in the second half is the only good thing.
“It was disappointing, you know? We had a problem with Adam Lallana up front and the rotation with Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert. But that had nothing to do with the goals. One goal was from a corner kick again and a cross with a flick on. That was disappointing.
“To come back into a game Southampton [will be hard] as you know they have only conceded three goals up until now, so it never easy. I thought after the first half we really had to repair the damage and that is what we tried to do with Aaron Hughes. That helped a bit because we couldn't defend well because Lallana drifted infield and Sascha Riether stayed out so we had a little problem defensively."
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