Middlesborough Home Won 1 – 0
The day after a Saturday when the Premier League just rained goals, Southampton and Middlesbrough showed the world how the modern game should be played. At least there was a rare sub-29,000 attendance to witness a dreadful game, although the number of empty seats suggest less than the published number turned up – and you would have forgiven anyone for walking out after such a sterile first half. Boro had few ambitions but they would have been ahead at the break had Fischer converted after a misplaced pass by Ward-Prowse sent him clear, and had Saints not covered heroically during the resulting goalmouth scramble. Austin is likely to be missing for some time and Rodriguez got he call ahead of Long, but leading the Southampton attack is a thankless task these days and he hardly had a kick before the break. Happily things did get better when the teams turned round… well, a bit better anyway. Redmond had been relegated to the bench, as a result of poor performances or with the latest midweek fixture in mind, but he returned to the action after just 45 minutes out, Tadić either failing to cope with his mask or feeling the results of a heavy tackle. It’s unlikely that Redmond really made the difference and in any case the name on everybody’s lips at the end was Soufiane Boufal. He had his team’s first serious effort on goal shortly after the break with a shot blocked by Chambers, but that was just the overture for the game’s only memorable moment: a sublime finish that gave the static Valdés no chance and which bears comparison with his other Saints goal – the great effort that beat Sunderland in the League Cup. I don’t think it’s in any way disloyal to criticise the way Southampton are playing at the moment, but Boro have scored one goal less and didn’t look like altering their game plan to try to get back on level terms – maybe they missed the injured Ramírez more than we expected. For Saints, a goal for Long or Rodriguez would help either’s confidence and J-Rod was unlucky when he saw a header cleared off the line – but he has only himself to blame for missing Redmond’s cross from almost under the bar in added time.
LSSC Man of the Match: Soufiane Boufal despite being withdrawn after 73 minutes as Saints try to make sure he’s fit for Morocco’s Africa Cup of Nations campaign next month.
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