Man City 3-2 Saints
So the Liebherr Plan has taken Saints back to the top flight ahead of schedule, after just about the right length of time spent in League One before going through the less attractive Championship like a dose of salts.
We had a memorable Saturday afternoon in May celebrating a successful campaign and now everything should be right with the world. Well, not quite. The hike in ticket prices was about as unexpected as the rash of inconvenient kick off times, but the latest stealth tax booking fee arrangements exacerbate a feeling of exploitation by more than the actual amount deserves. And then there’s that “ersatz Liverpool” kit that’s totally alien to our wonderful club if you ask me – and no-one ever asked anyone about it, did they? I don’t think I’ve ever felt so detached from SFC, and there was more depression as we had to try to take on the current Champions for starters. Good job you can still rely upon the beer in Manchester’s Jolly Angler.
Saints lined up against Manchester City with just Kelvin Davis and Fox (both in relegation seasons) and Puncheon (on his travels) with Premier League experience. City had somewhat more, but they had to do without Sergio Aguero for most of the match as he fell badly under a fair challenge by Clyne. No worries for them because of the riches available on their bench, and maybe it was fortunate that the somewhat lumpen Dzeko was their choice.
Saints, though, rarely looked overawed, but there was always the likelihood that class would prevail – as demonstrated when Hooiveld could do little other than bring down Tevez in the box. Quite a few of us could have saved David Silva’s tame spot kick, and Davis did so easily once he guessed right. The keeper wasn’t quite so impressive when Tevez sprang the offside trap, being beaten by a powerful and accurate shot at the near post (to be fair, though, it looked as though Tevez could have picked any spot).
The home side’s poor finishing at the start of the second half kept Saints interested, and Nigel sparked a recovery by bringing on Lambert for Rodriguez. Within minutes, the replacement striker latched on to a loose ball to smack a fine shot past Hart. All hell broke loose at the front of the (relatively) cheap seats: I don’t mind that, but it’s being crushed by people in those dreadful new shirts that upsets me. Maybe they always expected another goal, because it wasn’t as manic when Saints defied all my expectations by taking the lead – another substitution paid swift dividends when Steve Davis threaded a shot into the corner after Lallana led a Saints breakout.
This was finally the cue for Balotelli to be introduced, and few were surprised when the game was level again, although Dzeko’s goal was just about the only thing he got right. Still a lot of work to do for Saints to emerge with a point, and they weren’t quite up to the task as Fox managed to divert a harmless looking cross back into the danger area for Nasri to finish. It’s never going to be possible to claim value for money with a £50 seat, but this was a cracking game, and cause for more optimism than was around when we started. Still no points, though.
LSSC Man of the Match: Adam Lallana. A difficult one, this. Schneiderlin, the prodigious Ward-Prowse and then Davis off the bench did well in the engine room, but they might have done more to nullify Nasri. Then there was Hooiveld, but he did concede that penalty. Which brings us to Kelvin Davis, but he let in three. That just about leaves Lallana.