Jay Rodriguez’s injury problems over the past two years have been well documented. Having earned an England call-up back in 2013, the Southampton striker suffered serious knee ligament damage that not only ruled him out of the 2014 World Cup, but the whole of the following domestic campaign. Rodriguez made only 12 appearances in the 2014/15 season as he struggled to hold down a regular place in the starting XI. But his brace against Bournemouth, which secured the south coast bragging rights, proved he still knows how to find the back of the net.
Although they have been resolute defensively this campaign, Claude Puel’s Southampton side have been decidedly goal shy – especially on their travels. Before the weekend, the Saints had mustered just 16 goals from 14 outings, with only three in their previous seven matches. But Rodriguez’s return to the goalscoring trail is a welcome boost for Puel, who is unable to call upon the services of Charlie Austin for several months as he recovers from a shoulder injury. Seeking someone to fill the void, the Frenchman handed Rodriguez his third start of the season. It was a selection that paid handsome dividends.
Rodriguez had only netted once – a late equaliser against Sunderland back in August – before his double against Bournemouth. Each goal illustrated a different facet to the 29-year-old’s game. The first, which arrived shortly after the second-half restart, was a true poacher’s finish. Following good work from substitute Steven Davis, Rodriguez got himself goal side of Bournemouth skipper Simon Francis and turned home his team-mate’s delicious, clipped pass. The second was instinctive brilliance – and a potential contender for goal of the season. After receiving the ball some 20 yards out, the former Burnley forward turned and hammered an unstoppable, dipping effort past the despairing Artur Boruc.
It was a fitting way to rubber-stamp an excellent victory that catapulted Southampton to seventh in the standings. And Rodriguez deservedly received a standing ovation from the travelling supporters when he was substituted in injury time. With the Christmas period nearly upon us, the fixtures will soon come thick and fast as the Premier League intensifies. Austin’s misfortune has provided the Saints’ £7 million marksman with an opportunity to prove his injury woes are behind him and become a regular goalscorer for Puel. Certainly, he’s started as he means to go on.