Aston Villa 1-1 Saints
All of our players returned safely from the international break, but the injury to Davis that caused him to miss Northern Ireland’s matches also meant that he was unavailable to face Aston Villa. The obvious replacement was Cork, but Saints adopted a more offensive approach with Long, Pellè and Mané all playing.
Despite an ill-judged choice of primrose shorts to go with the dark blue away shirts, it worked very well in the opening exchanges, but after about 15 minutes, you began to wonder whether Southampton would regret not reflecting a clear on-pitch advantage in the scoreline. Although Villa finally managed to get some possession, Saints were still well on top until a block challenge turned into a long ball forward which was contested by Agbonlahor and Fonte, who didn’t fancy a foot race and indicated that he expected Forster to come out and clear up. Forster maybe doubted whether he could make it in time, and a moment’s hesitation allowed the forward to reach the ball first and run on towards an empty net for 1-0.
Mané provided Saints’ best moment but he was denied by a diving save by Guzan and we were still behind at the break. Although the team continued to dominate possession, we were now more vulnerable through chasing the game, and Weimann may have done better with a couple of chances that came his way, while Pellè couldn’t get anything on a hard-drilled cross from Fonte.
Playing all three first choice forwards from the start meant that there was limited scope for change, and time was beginning to run out when Myuka replaced Mané shortly before Bertrand found space for a cross, which he pulled back behind his forwards: Clyne had a lot to do to reach the loose ball first, and was stretching a bit for a shot when he got there, making his finish for the equaliser especially good. With some difficult fixtures coming up, it would have been handy to have gone on to win the game, but in fact Saints made a poor show of keeping what they had, mainly through Pellè’s inability to hold onto the ball or stop fouling his opponent.
LSSC Man of the Match: Nathaniel Clyne, in successive games. Clyne was also arguably England’s best player in the interval between them, and transfer window speculation is sure to follow!