Everton Home Lost 1 – 2
Ralph’s formation wasn’t clear from the line-up to face Everton at St. Mary’s with a debut for Ćaleta-Car (looking at him, there was no doubt where he was going to play), starting debuts for Lariso and Maitland-Niles and a second starting berth for Mara. It’s easy to suggest that the players weren’t sure of their formation either, certainly in a nondescript first half from which the visitors emerged as the better team but without troubling Saints too much. The best Southampton could manage was a half chance for Adams chipped into the side netting, from an assist by Mara, a player who doesn’t get as involved as we’d like but who has a nice touch when he does get on the ball. Aribo is a very different sort of midfielder, and in fact I’d like to see him playing up front; he notched his second Saints goal to put his team ahead, a neat finish from not the best of passes by Adams and following a positive interception run by Lariso. The lead just lasted until Everton’s next attack, a long free kick (after the softest of fouls!) that shouldn’t have been any sort of problem, but the manager, two centre backs and most of the crowd looked on in disbelief as Bazunu (who’d previously dropped a cross) stuck to his line instead of gobbling the ball up; Onana headed down and Coady volleyed in, unchallenged. It was proving to be a manic start to the second period as Aribo played in Adams for a blocked shot when well placed to score, and Ward-Prowse suffered similarly from the follow-up… and when the Toffees eventually broke clear, a deep cross from Iwobi was despatched impressively by McNeil. Again questions over the goalkeeper who was tempted to come for the cross and maybe wasn’t properly set as he looked very fragile in his attempts to keep the ball out at the near post. Ralph followed the adage that you win nothing with kids as he immediately brought on Perraud and Adam Armstrong for Larios and Mara, and maybe considered replacing Bazunu as well! Bazunu later made some amends by saving from Gray but the story of the last third of the game is of Perraud and A. Armstrong prompting a much improved Southampton with several near-opportunities created and a save from Pickford denying A.A. Right at the end, deep into added time, a point could, and probably should, have been taken out of the game but Ćaleta-Car, clear at the far post from a free kick, chose the difficult option of a sidefoot volley instead of throwing himself into a header. An equaliser would have lifted spirits but they would have dropped even lower at the sight of Manchester City in full flow the following day: we can only hope they decide to rest most of their squad next weekend following Champions League exertions.
Three LSSC Man of the Match candidates to choose from:
7. Joe Ayodele-Aribo. Grabbed a goal and would have had an assist as well, but for want of a better Adams finish.
9. Adam Armstrong. Only the grounds that no-one played very well until he came on…
15. Romain Perraud… and ditto for him.