Southampton needing others to weigh in with Austin out for months
Southampton 1 Middlesbrough 0
A first Premier League goal from their record signing Soufiane Boufal gave Southampton only their second win in seven league matches and could prove even more timely after news that Charlie Austin could be absent for up to four months.
Austin, Saints' top scorer with nine goals, dislocated his right shoulder during the first half of Thursday's exit from the Europa League in a 1-1 draw with Hapoel Be'er Sheva, and may require an operation.
"Normally that means surgery and between three and four months," Claude Puel, the Saints manager, said. "Of course it's difficult to play without Charlie because he has scored a lot of goals for us. We will have to look to other players, such as Jay Rodriguez. It's important all the players take up the challenge of being without Charlie."
In the circumstances, Boufal, nominally an attacking midfield player, whose own debut for Southampton was delayed by a knee injury following his £16m transfer from Lille in August, can expect to be asked to weigh in with more goals, as can Rodriguez, who started yesterday, Nathan Redmond and Shane Long.
Boufal began the game on the left of midfield but the Moroccan was switched to a more central role in the second half and rewarded Puel with a stinging 22-yard shot after 53 minutes.
It was only Boro's second away defeat of the season and followed draws at Arsenal, Manchester City and Leicester.
But they deserved nothing for an unambitious display that leaves them in sole possession of the title of the division's lowest scorers.
Jordan Rhodes had an early chance blocked by the feet of Fraser Forster, and their only other chance was the result of a bad back pass from James Ward-Prowse, which sent Denmark winger Viktor Fischer through. Virgil Van Dijk managed to delay the Boro man's shot, but he eventually fired at goal only for Jose Fonte to block at the near post.