Arsenal 1-0 Saints
No Schneiderlin to face Arsenal, but Cork returned, so that was OK then. Well it was OK for 30 minutes, anyway, but then Cork limped out of the contest and again the solution was to move Alderweireld forward. What we had was two well-organised defences and two sets of able midfielders who were clearly comfortable on the ball but who ultimately cancelled each other out. Saints carved out the clearest chance of the opening period, but after a brilliantly executed exchange with Davis, Pellè blazed over and didn’t force a save from relatively unknown keeper Martinez.
In fact Martinez wasn’t really called upon to make a save throughout, while Forster was having to be smart to deal with Arsenal’s occasional attacks. Manager Wenger brought on Giroud after an hour and a two pronged front-line now began to trouble Saints while our own introduction of Mané for Tadić created little. Possibly the team and coaches began to sense the nearness of the finishing line sooner than was necessary as play became more concentrated in the visitors’ half and a final substitution was made, maybe to introduce fresh legs in Myuka but just as likely to help run the clock down.
I’ve always sensed the danger in this sort of ploy: apart from weakening the team by including a player you didn’t think good enough to start, there’s no option left should someone be forced off through injury. Sure enough, that’s what happened as Alderweireld followed Cork’s example in limped off in his turn… well actually he didn’t seem to be limping that much from the stands, but we must have had a good reason to continue with just the ten men. It did tell in the end; when Fonte appeared to have got away with a handball in the six yard box, all remaining defenders seemed to be drawn towards the loose ball and once Ramsey got there first and crossed back into the danger area, there was no-one left to stop Sanchez from grabbing an 88th minute winner.
LSSC Man of the Match: Fraser Forster, despite another moment of doubt when dealing with a through ball. Several fine saves towards the end looked to have won a point, but it was not to be.