London Saints

Manchester United Away Drew 1 – 1, Saints unbeaten against the Manchesters

After a fine display midweek, it was no surprise that Saints were unchanged at Manchester United for Rangnick v. Hassenhūttl, or, more succinctly, Ralf v. Ralph. It became clear that Ralf-ball is very like Ralph-ball, and you can be very effective on the break against a Southampton team who themselves enjoyed plenty of attacking options at the other end. Forster had to save from Sancho as United broke away from a decent Saints raid, but on 21 minutes, Salisu went to ground trying to intercept Fernandes’ long pass, allowing Rashford to gallop clear and cross for Sancho to score this time. Ralf’s problems are two-fold: his tactics are not what the Old Trafford faithful expect, but in Pogba, Ronaldo and Fernandes, he also has players who believe that their role when they don’t have the ball is to referee the game rather than apply a team press – at least he won’t be there long enough to suffer the consequences. Our boys seem to be doing exactly what our Ralph wants at the moment, and it was noticeable that he was the only coach to brave the rain and patrol the technical area, and twice he called players over to tweak the team to cope with the counter-attacks. Just on half time Ronaldo broke clear for a second time in the game; his first effort had failed with a weak shot after rounding Forster, but this time the ball ended up in the net via Pogba… only for a late (and perfectly correct) offside flag to keep Saints in the game. Injured Bednarek was replaced by Stephens at the interval and we’d probably made tactical changes to foil the breakaways as well. It was time for Southampton to surge forward and the impressive Elyounoussi fed Adams whose shot against the inside of the post bounced reassuringly inside the opposite upright. Our main problem now was dealing with set pieces and Forster oddly, but effectively, kicked off the line from Maguire before Ronaldo had the ball in the net, but again offside; I assume the conversations Pogba and Ronaldo were having with the referee as VAR confirmed the decision were about the weather. I’ve given the home team’s expected goal chances more coverage as maybe they were the more clear cut, but this was an even contest and better finishes by Broja and Stuart Armstrong might have made it a memorable encounter. Five minutes added time seemed light and Saints fans seemed pleased enough – but shouldn’t we have been hoping for a winner of our own? As it was, Maguire took time off from his donkey impressions at the other end to almost snatch a winner from Shaw’s free kick, but Forster saved brilliantly at the foot of the post. 

LSSC Man of the Match: Kyle Walker-Peters. Once again a nice set of potential winners: Forster maybe deserved it most, but that may take away from the outstanding team effort; Elyounoussi was another favourite until being substituted after 71 minutes – Ralph says he was injured; Perraud was again reliable, but KW-P gave us more attacking options, and even ended up in midfield after Livramento came on for Elyounoussi. 

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