Aston Villa Home Won 1 – 0
Not just Friday night football, but bonfire night football too for the visit of Aston Villa – the empty seats in a quoted 30,000 crowd suggests a number of season ticket holders preferred bangers and toffee apples to sporting excitement, but the broadcaster involved ought also to consider how people are supposed to get home after an 8 p.m. kick off. For Saints, in form Redmond was unavailable after a positive Covid test and out of form Villa were without the injured Ings (to nobody’s great surprise). With Broja also a non-starter, either through injury or choice, Ings’ replacement Adam Armstrong got a game and made a very early impact, pouncing on a conveniently bouncing loose ball to hit home a left foot volley that Martinez probably didn’t see, but wouldn’t have had much chance with anyway. Stuart Armstrong, in for Redmond, fluffed a great chance to double the lead and Ward-Prowse shot powerfully but at a convenient height for Martinez to make a for-the-cameras save. The home side’s near domination was the major half time talking point, but another matter was the performance of Villa’s Anwar El Ghazi: cautioned for a foul on Livramento, excused further punishment for a similar challenge on the same player and then guilt of a comical penalty dive that also failed to extract retribution, whilst also missing his side’s only presentable chance of the opening 45. Without seeming to change formation, Villa upped their game considerably after the break, notably putting more pressure on full backs Walker-Peters and, especially, Livramento, who we know struggles more with the defensive side of his game. Saints were doing well to protect McCarthy but there was a feeling that it was only a matter of time before an equaliser, so Ralph made a decisive move after just ten minutes of this: off went Stuart Armstrong, replaced by Lyanco. The more centre backs can often be the better when protecting a lead, but the main effect was to give our opponents something different to think about, while also allowing the full backs to press on again. Villa remained a threat until the end, although their attacking moves now became more laboured and the nearest the second period came to a goal was at the other end where Martinez produced a fine save to stop Adams’ header curling into the top corner. Three welcome points for Saints in the archetypal game of two halves and in the end a solid defence saw us home; an unwelcome fifth successive defeat for the visitors – Sam Allardyce might be dusting off his CV.
LSSC Man of the Match: Oriel Romeu, although he may have only just have let go of Mings’ shirt just in time when defending a corner.