West Ham Home FA Cup 5th Round Won 3 – 1
It’s not all that long ago (2014) that a midtable Southampton team were at full strength for a midweek game at Hull before Mauricio Pochettino picked a weakened XI for what should have been a very winnable Saturday Cup 5th round tie… that didn’t go down at all well with fans who felt that the coach’s priorities were all wrong. Despite having a comfortable 35 point cushion in the league, Ralph Hassenhüttl was going down the same path by making nine changes to his starting line-up for a game against West Ham at the same stage of the competition – only KW-P and JW-P kept their places. Djenepo was one to benefit from the rotation policy and a poor clearance by WHU second choice keeper Areola gave him an early chance to fire at an empty net – the ball went out for a throw in. The player has had hardly any game time in 2022 and he didn’t get any more than 45 minutes this time out as he and Long were replaced by Stuart Armstrong and Broja to improve our second half chances. By then Saints were in front thanks to a superb strike by Perraud, at last finding the net after a few near misses. The visitors had made just a couple of changes to a team that consequently looked the stronger on paper, but they found it hard to disturb an odd centre back pairing of Stephens and Valery. They do, though, possess a number of giant defenders to augment Antonio from set pieces and on 60 minutes, pressure on Caballero at a corner forced a flap that sent the ball to Antonio who stabbed it home. A tough half hour before extra time looked to be on the cards, but enter the Albanian! Broja had announced himself back in September by running hard at Dawson in a brief appearance off the bench, and he got away from the same defender again to force a desperate tackle that VAR found to be a foul – Ward-Prowse smacked home the penalty to restore the lead, and incite an embarrassing set of pitch invasions before the game could restart. Minimum 21 minutes now to hold out, but Saints were able to get stronger with every one of five substitutions and thanks to a Caballero save and Diallo taking a yellow card for the team, the score remained the same as we entered seven added minutes. It wasn’t the same by the final whistle, though, not once Broja danced past pantomime villain Zouma (Puss in Boots?) to seal the win with a third Southampton goal. Once again, Ralph knows best.
LSSC Man of the Match: Romain Perraud. Another difficult one, with Prowsie outstanding in midfield, and what about the way Stephens and Valery dealt with Antonio? And then there was Broja’s productive second half too. Happy days!