LONDON – Southampton completed a rejuvenating holiday schedule with a superb Danny Ings goal earning them a 1-0 win over stuttering Tottenham Hotspur at St Mary's on Wednesday.
Ings fooled former Southampton defender Toby Alderweireld with a great piece of skill to fire the hosts in front in the 17th minute and a laboured Tottenham rarely threatened.
A hamstring injury to Harry Kane that forced the England striker off in the second half ensured it was a miserable start to the new year for Tottenham, whose manager Jose Mourinho was booked for an altercation with the home coaching staff.
Kane was injured scoring a goal that was disallowed for offside, the decision confirmed by VAR.
While Tottenham's players looked low on energy and lacking spark after a typically hectic festive fixture list, Southampton are unlikely to moan about the workload.
Since losing to West Ham United on December 14 - a result which left them in the bottom three - they have collected 10 points from four games to climb out of the relegation zone and up to the relative safety of 11th with 25 points.
Tottenham, who have now gone a year without keeping a clean sheet away from home, remain in sixth place, six points behind Chelsea who occupy fourth spot.
“At the moment we are playing like a really good team and it's a joy to watch them,” Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, whose team won at Chelsea on Boxing Day, told BT Sport. “We have found the right balance.
“Our biggest problem was that we were not getting clean sheets but the discipline has changed."
The decisive moment of a dreary afternoon arrived early and in stunningly straightforward fashion.
Jack Stephens played a long, flighted pass in behind Tottenham's defence and Ings, flicked the ball up and over Alderweireld, leaving the Spurs man on the floor, before slotting his shot past Paulo Gazzaniga.
Ings now has 13 Premier League goals to his name this season and four in the last four games.
Tottenham finally began to show some urgency later in the first half with Dele Alli close to getting on the end of a rebound after Alex McCarthy spilled Kane's shot.
The visitors also lost midfielder Tanguy Ndombele in the 25th minute to injury, and their frustration was complete when Kane hobbled off midway through the second half.
Southampton could have had a penalty shortly after halftime when the ball struck Alderweireld's arm, but a VAR check deemed that it was not worthy of punishment.
After a bright start to the Mourinho reign at Spurs, the Portuguese has now lost three of his nine league games in charge and a haul of four points from their last four games has seen them fall off the pace in the battle for a top-four spot.
Mourinho has cut a relaxed presence since replacing Mauricio Pochettino in November but the frustration showed on Wednesday.
“I was rude. I clearly deserved the yellow card as I was rude. I was rude to an idiot. Because I was rude I deserved the yellow card,” Mourinho said of his caution for appearing to go into the home technical area to have words with a member of the Southampton technical staff.