Belfast Telegraph

Luck benefits Southampton after VAR fails to spot handball – Ralph Hasenhuttl

Danny Ings’ 78th-minute leveller was swiftly followed by James Ward-Prowse’s free-kick winner.

Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl felt the result lifted a weight (Mark Kerton/PA)
Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl felt the result lifted a weight (Mark Kerton/PA)

By Ed Elliot, PA

Ralph Hasenhuttl admits Southampton benefited from a major slice of luck after VAR failed to spot a handball in the build up to their equaliser during the dramatic 2-1 win over Watford.

Saints looked set to suffer a costly defeat to one of their Premier League relegation rivals before Danny Ings’ 78th-minute leveller was swiftly followed by James Ward-Prowse’s free-kick winner.

Television replays later showed Moussa Djenepo handled the ball before assisting Ings’s equaliser and the PA news agency understands the goal would have been disallowed had the infringement been spotted at Stockley Park.

Victory for Southampton was their first at home since mid-April and ended an eight-match winless league run to leave Watford languishing at the bottom.

Saints boss Hasenhuttl felt the result lifted a weight but acknowledged fortune played a part in a much-needed three points.

“If VAR would have seen it, maybe he could have disallowed the goal,” said the Austrian.

“I said before the season that we will have a VAR that makes this game more fair, not 100 per cent, that will never happen.

“I’m 100 per cent convinced about this VAR and he does a fantastic job but he cannot see everything.

“I think the hand was not really obvious but, in the end, if he sees it and he says yes then you cannot say anything.

“Today we had the luck, last time we hadn’t.”

Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores said little about the lack of VAR intervention in the fear of it sounding like an excuse.

His side were on course to climb above their opponents and into 18th position thanks to Ismaila Sarr’s first Premier League goal in the 24th minute.

But they could not hold on and – after substitute Shane Long hit the bar – Ings restored parity with his seventh league goal of the campaign, before Ward-Prowse superbly curled home with seven minutes remaining.

Hasenhuttl, whose side face another crunch clash against fellow strugglers Norwich on Wednesday, believes the success keeps his team “alive”.

“It was important, absolutely important this win,” he said.

“I think it’s not the moment to discuss too much about the performance because of all the pressure that was on today. The weight that was on our shoulders, we lifted this and this was the most important thing.

“You need wins to stay alive and we are alive now and we have to show it again on Wednesday.”

Under-pressure Hornets head coach Flores, who said his side suffered from nerves in the second period, is unsure if he will remain in charge for Wednesday’s trip to high-flying Leicester.

The Spaniard only returned to Vicarage Road in September to replace the sacked Javi Gracia.

“I’m not sure. I am completely apart (from) these kind of decisions,” replied Flores when asked about his future.

“I am just sad because if I can’t help the team, I am sad for that, I am sad for the fans, I am sad for the players, for the owner and the future of the club, of course.”

Speaking about his players, he added: “They lost confidence. You think the game goes in the right way and finally one situation changes everything.

“One goal (conceded) for us now is a tragedy, even if we are controlling the match. It’s a tragedy.”

PA

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