Nathan Jones said Southampton “wanted to be aggressive” against Brighton but instead were booed by their own supporters after a 3-1 defeat in their Premier League home opener at St Mary’s Stadium.
Former Southampton captain Adam Lallana scored the opener and an own goal from left-back Romain Perraud caused more misery for Jones’ relegation-threatened side late in the first half. time.
Solly March then added a third for the Seagulls in the second half, firing a shot into the top corner from 20 yards out which Saints keeper Gavin Bazunu had no chance of saving.
A penalty was awarded to Southampton in the 73rd minute after Samuel Edozie hit Pascal Gross inside the box, and while Sanchez saved James Ward-Prowse’s initial effort he couldn’t prevent the bouncing of the head of the local skipper.
Jones conceded his side failed to fight off the visitors for much of the game.
“We came here to change the aggressiveness and change the dynamics of football in that way, but today we didn’t do that,” said the Welshman.
“We wanted to be aggressive, we wanted to press high but we didn’t do the basics well enough and when they got close to our target – which was way too easy at times – they conceded mediocre goals. Goals that didn’t should have never gone in.
“If you don’t defend the box well enough in the Premier League, you’re going to struggle. We’ve only kept a clean sheet all season and that’s something we need to change.”
Southampton entered the game at the back on Tuesday 2-1 win over Lincoln City in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup and they caused Brighton problems when Moussa Djenepo’s cross was deflected before a Ward-Prowse corner was brought to safety by Seagulls keeper Robert Sanchez.
The optimism faded, however, after Lallana found March on the right and continued his run into the box, meeting the winger’s cross and guiding his header past Bazunu in the 14th minute.
Southampton fell behind when Pervis Estupinan sent a low ball into the goal to cause panic in the Saints defence. Perraud arrived before March but the French defender couldn’t adjust his feet and put the ball in his own net.
With Saints in 20th place, Brighton moved up to sixth in the table before seventh-placed Liverpool took on Aston Villa at 17:30 GMT.
Are the Saints heading for relegation?
Nathan Jones took over at St Mary’s in November following the sacking of Ralph Hasenhuttl and after losing his first game in charge against Liverpool before the World Cup break, the 49-year-old’s task became even more difficult with this defeat.
His side have now lost four consecutive games in the top flight and never seemed to take the much-needed three points against Roberto de Zerbi’s side.
Southampton saw chances for Mohamed Elyounoussi and Samuel Edozie, as well as a free-kick from Ward-Prowse, come close but now face a big challenge to survive this season.
For Brighton, victory brought joy to traveling fans after Wednesday’s Carabao Cup clash penalty shootout at the hands of League One Charlton.
There were muted celebrations from Lallana after his first game, but surprisingly it was only his second Premier League header, with his other coming for Liverpool in December 2016.
De Zerbi and Brighton will be watching events at Villa Park to see if they can end Christmas in style and hold on to sixth place.
“The crowd must give Jones a chance”
Fans expressed their disapproval of Southampton’s performance at both half-time and full-time and former Saints defender Francis Benali wondered what effect the defeat would have on Jones’ side.
“There were a lot of good things that Ralph Hasenhuttl brought to the club, but it was probably right that the change was made,” Benali told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“There were a few results and performances that just didn’t go our way and I completely understood the timing of the change.
“It gave Nathan Jones and his team time to work with the squad during the World Cup break, but from what we’ve seen here today he has a lot of work to do.
“A defeat like this is going to be a blow. What impact will that have on the confidence of the players in the next games? Then we play Fulham, then Nottingham Forest – and you have to take points against those who give you circle in the table.”
Former Saints forward Kevin Davies, working pitchside for Amazon Prime, urged fans to be patient with Jones.
“The crowd was restless but give it a chance,” he said.
“He had to turn things around and tried to do that. There were positives in the second half, but they need signings in January. He needs more.”
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