Ronald Koeman said he was ‘proud’ of his Southampton players after they stormed back from 2-0 down to defeat Liverpool 3-2 on Sunday.
The Dutchman, who turns 53 on this Monday, streaked down the pitch to join in the party as substitute Sadio Mane scored his second of the game to secure a victory that had looked virtually impossible at half-time.
Liverpool, having survived an early penalty shout as Dejan Lovren seemed to bundle over Shane Long, turned on the style and should have been further ahead than the two-goal lead given to them courtesy of good finishes from Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge.
Koeman reacted to a dismal first-half display by introducing both Mane and Victor Wanyama at the interval – with the former going on to miss a 49th-minute penalty.
But the Senegal international, whose last Premier League goal came in a 1-1 draw at Liverpool in October, dusted himself off and scored a brace either side of a Graziano Pelle strike to complete a remarkable turnaround.
Both sides had been level on points going into the game but it is Saints who now sit seventh as they look to achieve European qualification for the second straight season, and Koeman believes he had every reason to show his emotion.
“It is the first time and I think the last time, I am still tired,” Koeman said when asked about his uncharacteristic dash down the touchline.
“That happened because it was a must-win game for us today and when you are really down after half-time you need to do everything to go on and believe in yourself and score the first goal to get really feeling you can come back in the result.
“That makes it special and emotional and of course all the goals were fantastic goals. I’m proud of the team. We had a great spirit after half time and it was hard to manage it after 45 minutes.
“Normally you get this chance, they will kill you more than they did. It is fantastic, 2-0 down and the importance of the game, the support of the fans. Tomorrow is my birthday and this is the best present I get.
“Normally the FA Cup winner will be out the top four or five in the league and that usually means the seventh position is not enough (for a Europa League spot).
“It is difficult to finish better than last year. We got six points from Stoke and Liverpool which makes it possible. That’s good because that means you are fighting for something until the end of the season.”