Arsenal Home Won 3 – 2
With Soares and Bertrand still missing, Ralph had selection problems for his first home game in charge, against Arsenal. From the last match, he knows he can’t risk Valery against Premier League wing play so the solution was to go with three centre backs and Valery and Targett occupying wide positions in front of them, the three being Yoshida, Bednarek and Vestergaard but no sign of Stephens anywhere – maybe he and the also missing Lemina are victims of what is believed to be an exceptionally tough training regime? The visitors had the lion’s share of possession throughout but it was noticeable that Saints were attempting to make the most of their forays upfield, with early shots and crosses being a feature of their attacking. This is designed to makes things happen for us, and boy did it do so on 20 minutes when Targett produced the most inviting of deliveries and when it was matched by a powerful headed goal by Ings, Saints were on their way. However, worries about the right defensive flank proved justified when Monreal got to the bye-line and pulled the ball back for Mkhitaryan to level the scores with a deliberate header. On the basis that even a point would be a bonus, thoughts were turning to whether we could retain parity until the break, but instead another good cross, this time by Redmond, was met with a very different but equally effective header by Ings to send the ball looping into the corner of the net. Bellerín immediately limped off, not to return and the introduction of Lacazette at the break gave the Gunners more attacking options. Southampton, though, were defending with more resolution than has often been seen, so although Romeu was caught in possession in a dangerous area, there seemed to be enough bodies back to cover; Vestergaard was the one to get in a block on Mkhitaryan’s shot but it only served to take the ball away from McCarthy’s dive for another equaliser. A powerful header by Yoshida from a corner looked to have restored the lead but he was denied by Leno’s fine save and then was unable to force home the loose ball, relying on the offside Long to complete the job. As time began to run out, Valery was unable to make the most of space he was finding on the right, but with the clock showing 85 minutes, Long, on for Redmond, made more of a similar position and his cross found Leno wanting and Austin, having replaced Ings, was presented with an empty net and Saints’ third headed goal. Five minutes regular time and five minutes additional for tired legs to hold out, boosted by the 94th minute introduction of the most unlikely figure of one Tyreke Johnson, hastily handed both a squad number and the briefest of debuts by the new manager. Arsenal seemed as shocked by the scoreline as the home support and they failed to launch the big finish that was expected of them, so Saints completed a rare win, an even rarer home success and the first against top six opponents for a long, long time.
LSSC Man of the Match: Danny Ings. Our select band of judges agreed it was a fine team performance, but only three players (Ings, Redm
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