Oct 21 (Reuters) - Goals have been in such short supply at St Mary’s of late, where Southampton had failed to score in eight of their past 11 games, that even a scuffled six-yarder is to be savoured.
But Sofiane Boufal did much better than that on Saturday, powering through the heart of West Bromwich Albion’s midfield, switching the ball from one foot to the other and threading it past Ben Foster to score a stunning 85th-minute winner for the Saints - the only goal of the game.
It was one of the best strikes seen this, or arguably any, season and will be endlessly replayed on weekend TV shows.
After picking up the ball near his own box, the 24-year-old twisted his way past five men, leaving two on the ground after a comical collision, and shot past three more players plus the goalkeeper.
That is two short of beating the entire team on his own.
For such a gem to be found in a fixture with the lowest goals to game ratio in the Premier League over the past seven years only made his strike more special, although Boufal did not even accept that it was the best he has ever scored.
“I scored one in France I remember, but I am so happy with this goal, I am so hungry.” said Boufal, who had only come on as an 81st-minute substitute.
“My first Premier League goal of this season, yes, it’s very special.”
The Morocco international has not always been so impressive since his reported 16 million pound ($21 million) move from Lille last year, often struggling to cope with the greater physicality of life in England.
Although he produced another memorable effort against Sunderland in the EFL Cup last season, his inconsistency left many fans wondering whether their record signing represented money well spent.
Under new manger Mauricio Pellegrino, he has watched this season unfold largely from the bench and has yet to play a full 90 minutes.
“Sofiane has to wait for his opportunity,” said Pellegrino. “Sofiane has got ability to do it, we had to change at the end because they put five defenders. We made the right decision and got the victory for more confidence for the next game.”
Albion manager Tony Pulis acknowledged the goal’s quality through gritted teeth. ”The game has changed. A few years ago he would have been stopped.
“The viewers will see it and think it’s a wonderful goal. He’s going past five players, one or two you’d hope would do better. It’s disappointing,” he said.
Albion, who are traditionally strong in the first half of the season, are now without a league win in eight games and sit just two points off the relegation zone. ($1 = 0.7583 pounds) (Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Christian Radnedge)