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Published: 16:03 | 12/3/16

Pelle brace beats Stoke

Victory lifts Southampton to seventh

Graziano Pelle stuck twice in a 2-1 Premier League victory for Southampton away to Stoke City, while Bournemouth defeated Swansea City 3-2.

At the Britannia Stadium, a near-post header and a curling strike from Pelle, who had not found the net since November, ensured that Southampton had a two-goal advantage by the half-hour.

Marko Arnautovic reduced Stoke’s arrears with a stabbed finish in the sixth minute of the second period.

The Saints ought to have been awarded a penalty kick when Jack Butland clearly brought down Dusan Tadic, but Lee Mason allowed play to continue.

Stoke, however, were unable to take advantage of their good fortune, as the visitors secured a heartening victory, although the gloss was taken off the triumph somewhat by Sadio Mane’s late dismissal.

Along with the defeat, additional bad news for Mark Hughes was the loss of attacking midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri, who limped off prior to the interval with a thigh problem.

Stoke started well but the visitors hit the front in the 11th minute through Pelle’s powerful flick from a Steven Davis corner.

Butland, having done well to push away a strong effort from Shane Long, was unable to adjust his body sufficiently to prevent Pelle from doubling the Saints’ advantage with right-footed finish from the corner of the penalty area, following a neat combination with Tadic.

Tadic had a superb opportunity to extend the away side’s lead on the stroke of half-time, as Long raced clear and rolled the ball square, but the Serbian was prevented from netting by Philipp Wollscheid's sliding challenge.

The Saints’ woes over not putting the game to bed were heightened when Arnautovic reduced the deficit by getting across Virgil van Dijk to jab Ibrahim Afellay's low cross into the roof of Fraser Forster’s net.

As the Potters turned the screw, Forster saved from Arnautovic, before van Dijk and his goalkeeper combined to deny Mame Biram Diouf.

With the Saints looking dangerous on the break, while Tadic’s penalty appeals went unheard, the increasingly desperate hosts threw all that they could muster at Southampton.

Ronald Koeman’s men hung on, though, and would have finished the game more comfortably had an excellent free-kick from substitute James Ward-Prowse gone in rather than strike the crossbar.

Mane’s injury-time red card for catching Erik Pieters dangerously in a high challenge between the pair put a minor dampener on matters for Koeman and the Saints, who move to within seven points of a Champions League spot.

Stoke are ninth, a point behind their conquerors.

At Dean Court, Bournemouth secured a 3-2 win over Swansea that edges the Cherries ever closer to Premier League safety.

Modou Barrow cut inside to curl the Swans level at the break, a couple of minutes after Max Gradel had slotted Bournemouth in front when Lukasz Fabianski palmed out Adam Smith's dangerous cross.

Josh King took a pass from Gradel to drill the home side back in front before Gylfi Sigurdsson collected Barrow's pull-back and fired in the visitors' second equalier.

Steve Cook, however, powerfully headed home a Matt Ritchie delivery to win the clash for Bournemouth.

With the Cherries all but safe, Swansea remain well and truly in the relegation mix in 16th place, albeit seven points clear of the drop zone.

By David Maher

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