Stoke City Away Dew 0 – 0
The December round of midweek Premier League fixtures was unwanted by anyone, especially all associated with Southampton and their Europa and League Cup commitments; at least the insubstantial away following at Stoke meant you could sit down through the entire game – the downside was there was nothing to stand up for. The game’s only significant action came on 22 minutes when Arnautovic caught Boufal on the thigh and was dismissed for the offence once referee Taylor had confirmed his view of the incident with his assistant. Mark Hughes put it down to an unsuccessful attempt to play a high bouncing ball, but an equally plausible explanation based on past experience of Mr. Hughes’ teams is that their game plan was to hit our most skilful player early, hard and often – but Mark says that’s not the case, so it can’t be. It’s often difficult to play 11 against 10, but for once Saints’ tedious passing game should have been ideal to exploit the inevitable gaps. Wrong on both counts as Stoke were pretty poor at holding on to what possession they had, while Southampton… well we know what to expect from Southampton. 71% possession and nearly 500 completed passes are all very well, but the stats don’t reveal where the action took place and I was often counting eight to ten passes before we got over the halfway line. At least there was some positive action from the bench with Rodriguez and Tadić replacing Long and Redmond (thus Boufal managed to complete an away game!) and finally McQueen for Martina as Saints may have gone to three at the back by the end – it was hard to tell as they had little defending to do by then. Rodriguez was to have by far his team’s best opportunity but his touch on the end of Boufal’s low cross was insufficient to get the ball over the line, and in fact it was an even less excusable miss than the sitter he passed up at the end of the previous game. You often overhear more sensible football punditry in the Gents toilet at the end of the game than after the MotD highlights, and I’m grateful to the unknown fan who pointed out that he thought the object of the game was to score more goals than the opposition, not simply to finish with more players on the pitch.
LSSC Man of the Match: Soufiane Boufal, but he’s going to need more help to fully realise his talents.
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