Arsenal Home FA Cup 4th Round Won 1 – 0
A rash of games on BT, plus the televised climax of a competition called The Big Bash (if you have to ask, you won’t be interested in the answer) brought on a moment of weakness that led to the purchase of a monthly sports pass. So it was that Saturday lunchtime became time for an early beer before firing up the computer for Arsenal‘s F.A. Cup visit. Coach Arteta has been widely criticised for making seven changes to his Premier League line-up, while Ralph ditched the youngsters who’d helped dispatch Shrewsbury from the cup competition four days earlier. I suspect we’re all with the manager on his strategy – a shame Sr. Pochettino (remember him?) hadn’t thought the same way when he had a real chance of getting the club into the last eight. Saints put in a bright enough first half, as they usual do no matter who they are up against, and managed a fortunate strike of the bar when Ward-Prowse aimed an outswinging corner that alarmed Leno as it suddenly swung goal-wards. Things also looked promising when Adams found space to get in a low shot that the keeper did well to push to safety but getting the ball in the net has been Southampton’s problem lately, with only Ings on target against Premier League opposition since we last played The Gunners; indeed the wait goes on with what turned out to be the only goal credited as a Gabriel Magalhăes o.g. after the defender got a crucial touch on what was probably a cross by Walker-Peters. Whilst not being as much in command as in the opening period of the league game at Arsenal, Saints fans would have been pleased with the first 45 minutes, although experience has taught us not to be over optimistic. A second goal was needed to ease worries and it very nearly came five minutes after the resumption when Ings burst through the middle only to fire against the post, the ball almost ending up in the net anyway as it rebounded against Leno’s head before going out; we were denied a corner because of an offside flag that would surely have been over-ruled by VAR had a goal ensued. It was closer than the visitors ever came to scoring despite their applying increasing pressure with a line-up strengthened from the bench – Forster, who has yet to concede this season, kicked away from Nketiah and Bednarek epitomised solid performances from all defenders with a block on the same player. Ralph’s response was to throw on N’Lundulu and Long, with the Irishman calling VAR into action to look at a tumble in the box; officials have good reasons for continually denying Long, but plenty of other players might have profited from slo-mo reviews of this sort of incident. No matter: once Nketiah shot over in the fourth of three added minutes, the game was up for the cup holders.
LSSC Man of the Match: Jan Bednarek. It’s quite handy that the press continue to concentrate on Ward-Prowse and Ings, while Bednarek goes about his business so effectively.