Daily Echo:

Peter Crouch condemned his former club to defeat as he scored the winner five minutes from time as Saints were beaten 2-1 by Stoke in Virgil van Dijk’s first start since January.

Maya Yoshida netted just Saints’ fifth goal of the season with a stunning volley to equalise after Mame Diouf had given Stoke a first half lead moments before Fraser Forster saved a Saido Berahino penalty.

But Crouch’s intervention ensured Mauricio Pellegrino’s men go into the latest international break on the back of one win in their last six matches in all competitions, and two in eight all season.

Van Dijk was in the thick of the action inside the first minute as Maxim Choupo-Moting broke forward down the middle and tried a shot from 20 yards out, with the defender on hand to deflect it wide.

Stoke were trying to start positively and Joe Allen was the next to have a go from distance only to slice over the bar.

Having started playing deep and on the back foot, Saints had a first half chance on eight minutes as a looping ball over the top from deep found Dusan Tadic who tried to help it on its way towards goal but couldn’t find the target.

Mario Lemina had a crack after finding space cutting inside but his right footed shot curled wide of the far post.

Fraser Forster had to come to Saints’ rescue on 15 minutes as Stoke broke quickly. Xherdan Shaqiri produced a neat turn in the area to buy himself a yard for a left footed driven shot but the keeper dived to his right to save.

The game was becoming increasingly open and Saints were the next with a chance as Nathan Redmond was played in by Tadic. He had to try and flick a shot first time under pressure past the keeper but failed to hit the target.

Shane Long tested Jack Butland with a shot on the turn from six yards out after Oriol Romeu had won a second ball from a free kick but the Potters stopper blocked with a low dive from close range.

The theme of chances for both teams continued as Forster again had to save on the half hour mark. It was Choupo-Moting who worked the room for a firm right footed shot from the edge of the area that Forster saved away to his right.

Joe Allen became the first player in the book for a foul on Tadic.

Van Dijk made another vital interception on 38 minutes as he was on hand to make a last ditch sliding challenge to deny Allen before Ryan Bertrand headed over Darren Fletcher’s stinging drive from 20 yards.

However, there was no stopping Stoke from taking the lead on 40 minutes.

It was a very disappointing goal for Saints to concede, coming direct from a set piece.

Shaqiri whipped in an inswinging right wing corner and Mame Diouf was able to make a simple run and break free from his marker and flicked a header home in space on the edge of the six yard box.

Saints got a massive let-off when Forster saved from the penalty spot to prevent them going two down just three minutes later.

Van Dijk hauled down Saido Berahino in the area and Mike Jones had no option but to point to the spot.

Berahino stepped up to take it but his right footed effort was a nice height for Forster who made a good save diving to his left.

Cedric Soares had the last effort of the half with a drive from distance that went wide and at the break Saints were a goal down but still in the game.

Saints were appealing for Allen to be sent off as he flattened Long with a high boot in the opening moments of the second period but referee Jones just awarded a free kick and took no further action.

Forster was in business again on 49 minutes as he blocked at the near post after Romeu directed Shaqiri’s left wing cross towards his own goal.

Tadic picked up a yellow card after several fouls in quick succession.

Long had a great chance to level things up on 54 minutes as Cedric whipped in a terrific right wing cross. The Saints striker rose highest to meet the ball on the edge of the six yard box but headed over the bar.

Romeu was the next booked for dragging back Shaqiri.

Long had a tougher chance back peddling to reach a Tadic cross from the right and couldn’t guide it on target.

Van Dijk was the next to spurn a good opportunity as he was found by Redmond’s outswinging corner but from ten yards out he headed into the ground and wide.

Saints made a first change on 60 minutes with Sofiane Boufal replacing Davis.

That meant sticking with the same system despite Stoke having lost much of their attacking impetus and instead getting men behind the ball and defending deep.

Pellegrino brought on Manolo Gabbiadini for Redmond on 67 minutes with Long dropping deeper.

Stoke responded with Peter Crouch coming on for Berahino.

With Stoke showing no ambition whatsoever the challenge was there for Saints. They had almost all of the possession but needed to find a way to break through a packed Potters defensive action.

There was occasional space out wide due to Stoke’s three at the back policy, but the numbers dropping deep were meaning even that was start to become less.

Saints did make the breakthrough and levelled the scores on 75 minutes through an unlikely source.

It was a scrappy build-up as Bofual’s deflected cross was sliced on by Long but the finish was sublime as Yoshida produced a remarkable acrobatic volley from eight yards out to fire in a shot in via the underside of the bar.

Lemina made a superb sliding tackle to deny Choupo-Moting as Stoke suddenly decided they might need to push forward again.

Yoshida almost got another one as he slid in at the far post to meet a deep free kick but from a difficult angle he found the side netting.

There was a sting in the tail for Saints though as one of their former players scored against them five minutes from time.

Forster saved with his legs from Choupo-Moting after Erik Pieters’ cut back but Stoke managed to work the ball back into Crouch who turned home from close range.

Saints appealed for offside but replays suggested the linesman was correct not to raise his flag and they were left chasing the game again.

They came close as Gabbiadini couldn’t make to contact with Bertrand’s cross while Austin bundled the ball past Butland but Kurt Zouma cleared off the line.

There was plenty of chaos in what proved to be about eight minutes of added time but Saints couldn’t find another goal and went home empty handed.