Manchester City Home Drew 1 – 1
Manchester City at home was the sort of game where you turn up for the sort of Southampton performance that would have seen season tickets torn up once upon a time. You can’t blame Ralph, or anyone else at the club, for an almost total rearguard action that saw our team enjoy just 26% possession; it’s the sheer imbalance of resources at fault. Sometimes when these fixtures go pear-shaped you would rather the big money clubs went off to enjoy their own company, but when our players give the journalistic 110% to take the battle to their expensive peers, well we go home delighted, don’t we? Naturally it’s important not to go behind, although an early Southampton goal, whilst positive, brings its own problems as well. Saints got a flying start against City when Walker-Peters and Redmond worked well down the right; the latter’s first touch was decent but not sublime so he was forced into a sort of toe poke of a shot that was superbly executed. The ball was in the net again before too much time had passed, but an offside flag spoiled celebrations of Broja’s assured finish, and from then on things became a bit more awkward as the visitors started to press. Sterling curled a shot over that probably had Forster beaten but the keeper was on top of his game to foil the same player from close range, and he then had the presence of mind to kick the loose ball clear and prevent an even easier opportunity. While a half time deficit is rare for City, a lead at that stage isn’t unusual for Saints – holding on to it is, so increasing the advantage would have been invaluable. Broja burst clear only to be denied by Laporte’s block and from the resulting corner Broja beat Ederson to head against the post from close range. From then on, managing the game became impossible without the ball and an otherwise impeccable defence cracked under DeBruyne’s free kick that was headed in by unmarked Laporte. With what became 31 minutes remaining, the chances of escaping with a point were poor and DeBruyne smacked a shot against the post while Jesus hit the same woodwork from a narrow angle (Fraser had the net covered, though) – with Rodri having clipped the bar at 1-0, things were desperate. A worrying period ensued, waiting for VAR to determine that a foul by Romeu was just outside the box; as the referee had waved play on, VAR rules meant that we didn’t have to face a DeBruyne free kick from 18 yards and one inch either. The fifth official was in action again to rule that Stuart Armstrong wasn’t guilty of serious foul play when injuring Laporte. I hope it hurt him anyway as he’s a nasty piece of work, having collapsed holding his head in the first half, only to jump up pretty swiftly when it was clear no-one was taking any notice. This time he was embarrassingly quick to go down for the Armstrong challenge a second time once the VAR review started, but City’s efforts to get Stuart sent off seemed to have taken a lot out of them as Saints held on for the draw that was celebrated like a win.
LSSC Man of the Match: Mohammed Salisu. Certainly his best game for us, and I had thought it was epitomised by a solid tackle late in the game to emerge with the ball just as City looked likely to snatch a win. Having seen TV coverage, I now go for when he took a full-blooded drive on the chin, but remained standing in circumstances when many a boxer would have been felled. But congratulations to all our players – except possibly Elyounoussi, a half time substitute forced into a role that didn’t suit him.