Manchester City Away Lost 2 – 1
Romeu and Lemina duly returned to face Manchester City but rather unexpectedly Højbjerg kept his place and there was a recall for Yoshida as Saints fielded three centre backs. That left other recalled players, Redmond and Long, as the only creative threat, but the team seemed to know what they were at, possibly a legacy of the manager’s experience of being outgunned in terms of playing budwhen preparing Alavés to face the glitterati of La Liga. Actually the big defenders were able to cause a threat from set pieces at the other end, with Yoshida setting up Hoedt for a header against the bar, while Van Dijk set up Yoshie for what ended up as a defender’s finish. Forster, meanwhile, was keeping City at bay, notably when the home side broke in numbers from the Hoedt incident; at their best, Manchester City seem to walk the ball into the net, but Saints mainly managed to reduce them to shots from a greater distance. Unfortunately a plan that was working nicely was thrown into confusion just after the break when Forster lined up just one man in the wall as De Bruyne fired in a free kick from the wing; it looked unwise, but the keeper wasn’t helped by a near post touch that took the ball into the net, a goal originally credited to Otamendi, then transferred to a Van Dijk own goal and apparently now down to De Bruyne himself. Plan B was unveiled after 64 minutes with Boufal on for Højbjerg, and to be fair Saints were venturing forward when they could – not easy with 26% possession. But forward they came superbly for an equaliser with just over 10 minutes normal playing time remaining: Bertrand’s deep cross was well controlled by Boufal who then beat Delph to present Romeu with a shot into the top of the net. The inevitable substitutions and an injury to Soares meant the 90 would be increased by five minutes, which looked to be disastrous when Forster failed to gather a cross and the ball ended up in the net; happily a free kick for a foul by Fernandinho was the result, and those five minutes had been played out when City had their next, and final, chance. This time there was no whistle to save agonised Saints as Sterling curled in a superb finish, but it was so, so unlucky – all options seemed to be covered as the England man cut in, but he alone was unmarked after he found De Bruyne who prodded it back to Sterling under pressure. Southampton had been one tackle away from glory – OK, a glamourous description of what would only have been a single point, but City duly celebrated their fortune as if they had won the Champions League.
LSSC Man of the Match: Fraser Forster, presumably he knows what’s best for him with his defensive wall alignments.