Hat-trick record-breaker Sadio Mane was quick to praise fellow star man Shane Long after Southampton got their European challenge back on track with a rout of dismal Villa.
The Ireland international provided two assists and his second goal was a late contender for goal of the season, beating Shay Given with a curling 40-yard strike.
“Thank you to him because he did a good job with a great performance,” Mane said. “I’m happy for him because he scored two goals for the team — his second was a nice goal, unbelievable — and he always works hard in training.”
Did you know? The win saw Saints move on to a best ever Premier League points tally of 60.
Mane’s own delight was clear after setting Southampton on course for a memorable victory with the fastest ever Premier League hat-trick.
Saints’ impressive season had looked to be petering out, only for it to set alight as they ran amok against the FA Cup finalists.
Long’s brace and a Graziano Pelle volley completed Villa’s embarrassment, although it was Mane’s quick-fire treble which provided the main talking point.
The Senegal international went from opening the scoring to completing his hat-trick in two minutes and 56 seconds —the quickest in Premier League history — beating the record of four minutes and 33 seconds set by Liverpool’s Robbie Fowler in 1994 against Arsenal.
“I’m very happy. It’s important to score for the team but I am just happy that the team won for the fans — they’re always amazing, unbelievable. Everybody is happy,” Mane said.
“If you see the last few weeks, it has not been easy, but you have to accept it — that’s football.
“We just tried to give our best in training to work hard, and finally we’ve got the rewards.
“I think we did a great performance, because we worked together as a team.
“Everybody was very, very focused on working together.”
Mane’s hat-trick was the catalyst for a timely win for Southampton in the race for European qualification.
Fortunately for Villa, the fact Hull lost 2-0 at Tottenham meant their safety was assured just a few hours later —welcome news to Tim Sherwood after a gut-wrenching first half at St Mary’s.
“It’s hard,” the Villa boss said. “It’s difficult. You feel it in your stomach. You feel sick.
“There’s not a lot you can do about it. You have to be professional. You have to realise you’ve got a job to do to try and help as best you can.
“At half-time we just tried to calm them down and just make them aware that it wasn’t good enough which they were all aware of.
“They’re not stupid and to make sure that we tried to get some pride out of the second period.”
Gazzaniga, Clyne, Fonte, Alderweireld, Bertrand, Wanyama, Davis (Yoshida 72), Long, Ward-Prowse (Djuricic 80), Mane, Pelle (Elia 85).
Given, Bacuna (Lowton 67), Okore, Vlaar, Hutton, Cleverley, Westwood, Delph, N’Zogbia (Agbonlahor 57), Benteke, Grealish (Sinclair 82)
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