Match ends, Southampton 1, Watford 1.
Southampton 1-1 Watford: Jose Holebas rescues controversial point for Hornets
Mark Hughes blamed Southampton's draw against Watford on a "bad mistake" from referee Simon Hooper, who disallowed a Charlie Austin goal for the hosts in the second half.
Had Austin's goal stood, Saints, who went ahead through Manolo Gabbiadini's left-footed strike, would have had a two-goal cushion. As it is, they are still waiting for their first home win of the season.
The referee incorrectly believed Austin's shot had gone in off team-mate Maya Yoshida, who was in an offside position.
Watford, meanwhile, climbed to seventh in the Premier League thanks to the point gained when Jose Holebas' equaliser deflected in off home defender Cedric Soares late on.
"The performance of the referee is not good enough," the Southampton boss said afterwards.
"All we want in a game is the key match-defining moments to be correct. At 2-0 the game is over. It is unfortunate and a bad mistake. He admitted it on the pitch. I mean for goodness sake, he needed a bit of help. These decisions affect what we are trying to do here."
Austin said: "It's ridiculous, they shouldn't be in the game. We scored a perfectly good goal that was ruled out for offside. The officials cost us two points."
Southampton's failure to cling on to their lead leaves them hovering just above the relegation zone in 17th.
It also ensured an unwanted record of failing to win any of their first six homes games in a season for the first time in their history.
Four of those fixtures have ended in draws, but their inability to convert promising situations into three points is likely to increase the pressure on Hughes, with reports suggesting his job is on the line.
Despite Watford enjoying some good fortune to equalise, manager Javi Gracia also felt aggrieved not to be awarded a penalty when Ryan Bertrand appeared to foul Nathaniel Chalobah.
"There were different situations that were difficult for the referee but it was a clear penalty," he said.
Hughes remains under pressure
|How Mark Hughes' record stacks up as Southampton boss|
|Mauricio Pochettino (2013-14)||60||23||18||19||38.33%|
|Ronald Koeman (2014-16)||91||44||17||30||48.35%|
|Claude Puel (2016-17)||53||20||13||20||37.74%|
|Mauricio Pellegrino (2017-18)||34||8||13||13||23.53%|
|Mark Hughes (2018-present)||24||5||8||11||20.8%|
Hughes, who has now recorded just three victories in 20 league matches as Southampton manager, will be aware of the background noise questioning his position.
However, he has pointed to his "limited" input in recruitment.
The departures of technical director Martin Hunter and vice-chairman Les Reed on Thursday represented an acknowledgement of the club's recent struggles in this area.
Premier League finishes of eighth, seventh, sixth and eighth were largely constructed upon the club's resourcefulness in the transfer market and the integration of those players into a clear football philosophy that allied neat passing with high pressing.
But replacing the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Victor Wanyama, Dusan Tadic and Sadio Mane and expecting the same results and style of play is a difficult proposition.
At St Mary's on Saturday, Southampton's fluency was largely sparked by Stuart Armstrong, starting only his second game since his £7m move from Celtic in the summer.
The Scotland winger linked well with Ryan Bertrand and Italian forward Gabbiadini, and covered the most ground of any player in the first half.
As he tired his influence waned, but Hughes must hope for more from Armstrong and Gabbiadini - who scored his first Premier League goal at home for over a year - to spark a revival over the coming weeks.
Watford show their grit
If recent reversals against Newcastle and Bournemouth had suggested a side with a soft underbelly, Watford dispelled doubts over their character on the south coast.
While not at their best, they delivered a performance brimming with grit which was helped by the introduction of Troy Deeney just before the break.
The forward was instrumental in the build-up to Chalobah's penalty claim and added physicality to the Hornets attack which at times panicked the home defence.
Alex McCarthy's late attempt to punch clear was one such example with the ball ricocheting back against the Southampton crossbar as Yoshida and Watford's Isaac Success jumped for the ball.
"I think our idea was to get a win, but in the first half we started losing," said Gracia.
"In the second we showed character and ambition and were improving. Maybe we could win in the last part of the game but Southampton created good chances. It was fair in the end."
In contrast to Hughes, Gracia is being talked about as a long-term managerial solution at Vicarage Road and is expected to sign a new three-year deal at the club.
The 48-year-old Spaniard is the 10th Hornets boss since the Pozzo family took charge of the club in 2012 and would be the first to sign a contract extension in their ownership.
Man of the match - Mario Lemina
Holebas the attacking defender - the stats
- Southampton have lost just one of their past 11 matches against Watford in all competitions (W5 D5).
- Watford have failed to keep a clean sheet in 11 of their past 12 Premier League away games.
- Watford's Jose Holebas has been directly involved in more Premier League goals this season than any other defender (two goals, four assists).
- Southampton's Manolo Gabbiadini scored his first Premier League goal at St Mary's stadium since October 2017 v Newcastle, 391 days ago.
- Southampton's opening goal was their first in the Premier League that wasn't from the penalty spot in 615 minutes since Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg netted v Brighton in September.
Following the international break, Southampton travel to Fulham in the Premier League on Saturday, 24 November (15:00 GMT) while Watford host Liverpool on the same day (15:00 GMT)
- 2Cédric SoaresBooked at 64mins
- 21BertrandBooked at 38mins
- 23HøjbjergBooked at 88mins
- 17ArmstrongSubstituted forWard-Prowseat 74'minutes
- 22RedmondSubstituted forObafemiat 90'minutes
- 9IngsSubstituted forAustinat 40'minutes
- 14ChalobahBooked at 55mins
- 19HughesSubstituted forDeeneyat 40'minutes
- 37PereyraSubstituted forGrayat 68'minutes
- 7DeulofeuBooked at 80mins
- Simon Hooper
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Southampton 1, Watford 1.
Attempt missed. Andre Gray (Watford) with an attempt from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Troy Deeney with a headed pass.
José Holebas (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Mario Lemina (Southampton).
Foul by Craig Cathcart (Watford).
Michael Obafemi (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Watford. Conceded by Cédric Soares.
Attempt blocked. Isaac Success (Watford) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Abdoulaye Doucouré.
Foul by José Holebas (Watford).
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Southampton. Michael Obafemi replaces Nathan Redmond.
Foul by Gerard Deulofeu (Watford).
Mario Lemina (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (Southampton) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Isaac Success (Watford) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (Southampton).
Attempt blocked. Charlie Austin (Southampton) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Foul by Troy Deeney (Watford).
Maya Yoshida (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Watford. Conceded by Maya Yoshida.
Corner, Watford. Conceded by Wesley Hoedt.
Troy Deeney (Watford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Mario Lemina (Southampton).
Attempt saved. Manolo Gabbiadini (Southampton) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by James Ward-Prowse.
Goal! Southampton 1, Watford 1. José Holebas (Watford) left footed shot from the left side of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Gerard Deulofeu.
Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by James Ward-Prowse (Southampton).
Foul by Isaac Success (Watford).
Manolo Gabbiadini (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Gerard Deulofeu (Watford) is shown the yellow card.
Attempt missed. Kiko Femenía (Watford) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Andre Gray with a headed pass.
Offside, Southampton. Ryan Bertrand tries a through ball, but Mario Lemina is caught offside.
Corner, Southampton. Conceded by José Holebas.
Attempt blocked. Maya Yoshida (Southampton) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Manolo Gabbiadini with a cross.
Attempt missed. Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the right following a set piece situation.
Substitution, Southampton. James Ward-Prowse replaces Stuart Armstrong.
Foul by Gerard Deulofeu (Watford).
Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Attempt blocked. Andre Gray (Watford) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Troy Deeney.