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2016/2017 English Premier League
  • Sofiane Boufal (53')

Boufal stunner gives Southampton win over Middlesbrough

Sofiane Boufal's first Premier League goal was one to remember as a stunning 25-yard strike sealed a 1-0 win for Southampton over Middlesbrough.

Boufal joined Saints in a club-record deal worth £21million last summer, and the Moroccan's moment of magic proved decisive in a game of few clear-cut chances at St Mary's.

Southampton's victory moves them up to 10th while Middlesbrough remain 16th after just one win in five games.

Boufal has taken time to settle since arriving from Lille with an injury, but the 23-year-old is a precocious attacking talent and manager Claude Puel will hope his brilliance here, worthy of winning any game, is just the beginning.

The odd goal was always likely to settle this contest considering both teams have averaged less than one a game in the Premier League, with Southampton managing only 20 shots on target in their last six games and Boro a league-low 36 all season.

Each side was also without their top goal-scorer, with Southampton's Charlie Austin sidelined by a shoulder injury and Alvaro Negredo nursing a hamstring strain.

For the visitors, that meant only a second start of the season for Jordan Rhodes, bought from Blackburn for £9 million in the January transfer window.

The 26-year-old endured a forgettable afternoon, doing little to suggest he is set for an extended run in the team.

Both sides were content to stroke the ball around early on but the only damage done was to the face of Boufal, after a jostling Adam Clayton had flung back his hand, although it appeared accidental despite the forward's protestations.

Southampton gradually took control but lacked a sense of purpose.

Jordy Clasie and Jay Rodriguez each failed with snap-shots but the best opening of the half fell to Middlesbrough and stemmed from an underhit backpass by James Ward-Prowse.

Viktor Fischer raced through on goal but after evading Virgil van Dijk and rounding goalkeeper Fraser Forster, his angled shot was scrambled off the line by Fonte.

Boro forward Cristhian Stuani added to the momentary mayhem with two quickfire follow-ups but the first was blocked and the second blazed over.

That was the high point in an otherwise uninspiring 45 minutes, the end of which was greeted by a smattering of boos from Saints supporters.

Puel responded by replacing Dusan Tadic with Nathan Redmond at the interval and the substitute made an immediate impact, his cushioned header back setting up Boufal for a shot that was blocked.

Boufal continued to look the most likely source of a goal and in the 53rd minute the forward, 25 yards out, took one touch to receive the ball, another to tee himself up and a third to hammer it past Victor Valdes.

Steven Davis could have put the result beyond doubt but failed to connect with Cuco Martina's cross before Rodriguez saw his late header nodded off the line by Clayton.

Rodriguez then appeared to defy physics in injury-time when he sidefooted Redmond's cross over from a yard out.

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