London Saints

Swansea Away FA Cup 3rd Round Won 2 – 3 AET

Oh no, here we go again! Swansea entertained Saints in the FA Cup in an empty stadium, and with the stroke of a lawmaker’s pen, a 5:30 k.o. turned from a nuisance to a benefit. A strong XI took the game to the Championship side, with Redmond and Stuart Armstrong prominent in a lively beginning. Not for the first time, we should have scored more goals in a confident opening, but as Swansea were clearly not much cop, an 8th minute strike looked to be plenty anyway: the Southampton press forced Walsh into a misplaced pass, intercepted by Tella and fed on to Redmond who finished nicely. The only concern in the first 29 minutes was a caution for Valery that was both unnecessary and somehow inevitable – you could see it happening well before it did. And it was bound to have repercussions: on the half hour, Valery was out of position when a long ball found Obafemi and although a touch on the back was minimal, Obie has been well educated and a second yellow ensued. Saints had played with ten for long enough last time out and didn’t panic, simply switching Ward-Prowse to full back. It did put an end to Redmond and Armstrong’s marauding but the nine outfielders were to carve out a couple of decent chances in a second half that seemed to be moving towards a happy ending: Tella’s run and Broja’s low cross didn’t quite meet at the same time and then Stephens headed a free kick past when unmarked. Ralph took advantage of Cup rules by making four substitutions that had more to do with preparing for the next fixture than winning this one, but it was a surprise when Swansea finally found space get behind a well organised back line when Naughton crossed for Pirou to score despite the best efforts of Bednarek. It could have got worse, but Forster kicked clear from Pirou to take us straight to extra time (with everyone facing a fixture pile-up) and the thought of penalties. The Swans drew first blood beyond the 90 when Ntcham’s cross shot found its way into the back of the net via a deflection off Bednarek. As had become my custom during lock down, I was watching this with the commentary muted and to the accompaniment of music of choice; this ploy has few disadvantages, but with no soundtrack, one is that you have to concentrate, so just after topping up my in-match beer, I was surprised to look up and see Long free on the right and crossing for Elyounoussi to nab an instant equaliser. Despite TV replays, I still can’t work out how the home defence got into a mess for this one, but their left flank was soon opened up again and there was Long at the far post to restore the lead: having to rely on the assistant’s skill and judgement rather than VAR’s more forensic examination of offside claims avoided an anxious wait. An entire second period of extra time had to be endured, but Swansea weren’t good enough to trouble a back line who have got the hang of being a player short, and it’s Saints fans who are now tasked with finding out where and when to follow the fourth round draw. 

LSSC Man of the Match: James Ward-Prowse – somewhat annoyingly, match coverers BBC Wales also chose him. After Ralph’s substitutions, only Romeu and the defensive unit saw out the full two hours but Romeu and Stephens picked up needless cards, Bednarek put through his own goal and Forster was under-employed; Perraud had a solid game, but the equaliser came though his territory. 

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