Chelsea Home Won 2 – 1
Perraud was fit enough to start against Chelsea so he came in for Djnepo, immediately giving the team a more defensive feel which was increased by the inclusion of Diallo in midfield; perhaps memories of last year’s 0-6 thrashing were influencing selection. Early indications were that the visitors were more than coping with it as they looked sharp going forward and eventually took a 23rd minute lead after a raid down the left and a patient, and astute, second effort by Sterling after Perraud denied him first time. Few would have predicted that was to be Chelsea’s high point in the contest, but Saints were level within five minutes and never looked back. The equaliser showed that shooting is as much a part of Lavia‘s arsenal as his passing and tackling as he smashed home the loose ball following a corner. The home goal was now under less threat, and a second strike at the other end in first half added time meant a happy interval for Saints fans – Adam Armstrong found space as defenders seemed to concentrate on Adams and from my angle, his shot was bound for the net anyway, before a healthy deflection took it past Mendy. Obviously the mega-rich clubs have much in their favour, and something new for the rest of us to cope with is the five sub rule: Herr Tuchel made his first move at the break, introducing Kovačić for Loftus-Cheek, and he eventually had four goes at changing the direction of the game, but only the first couple of minutes of Broja’s return to St. Mary’s offered the coach any hope, and Bazunu was largely untroubled. That the nearest things to a change to the scoreline would have been in Southampton’s favour is a testament of how disciplined the team were in their defensive duties and how they relished playing on the break. Those PL stats that show just 32% home possession don’t seem a fair reflection of the night’s proceedings and had Cucurella not blocked Elyounoussi’s diving header at point blank range and had Silva not completed a bet-you-couldn’t-do-that-again clearance off the line to deny Salisu, the six minutes added time would have been less stressful, even if they were largely played out in midfield.
Three LSSC Man of the Match candidates to choose from:
9. Adam Armstrong. Goals always help, which is one reason why he doesn’t usually get considered!
37. Armel Bella-Kotchap. An early tackle to stop Sterling was his best moment in another solid performance.
45. Roméo Lavia. Another habitué in the awards line-up. A memorable goal was his high point, but unfortunately forced out of the game after 60 minutes with what looked like a hamstring injury.