Southampton’s only away victories in the Premier League to date this season have been followed by international breaks, so it could be that some momentum was lost. The nature of the next visitors to St. Mary’s didn’t help, though, as over-achieving Leicester arrived after the win at Chelsea, while this time Stoke City came to Hampshire with a hard-to-beat-away record only bettered by Leicester and Saints themselves. Manager Koeman left Mané on the bench, something he’s done before after an awkward journey back from Africa, but an injury problem may also be responsible for keeping him there for 64 minutes of a game that proved very difficult. There was also a suspicion that we were out-thought tactically too, with the physical mismatch of Soares against the giant Arnautović compounded by the fact that the Austrian can play a bit as well. The right flank was a problem for Saints throughout the first half, and a tenth minute cross from that wing, by Pieters rather than Arnautović in fact, was very neatly turned in by Bojan Krkić for what proved to be the game’s deciding moment. This came after a scramble in front of goal at the other end where Saints couldn’t quite get a shot on target, and that was actually about as near as they ever came to troubling Butland throughout the game. Stoke approached the second half confident that they could keep Saints out as they were content to concede possession to ensure the penalty box was packed – and the home team had neither skills nor numbers enough to pierce a solid defence. There might have been a way back into the game had referee Mason got a better view of what most people saw as a foul penalty box challenge by Wollscheid on Pellè but the lack of a decision only added to the forward’s frustrations and a word too many to the official in added time brought a caution that will now lead to a ban. Pellè will be difficult to replace, but it won’t do any harm for the coaches to think a bit more creatively in the run up to the next game.
LSSC Man of the Match: Steven Davis, in my view substituted prematurely for Ward-Prowse.
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