Leeds Away Lost 1 – 0
After that uplifting performance at Chelsea, no-one was over-surprised when Southampton named an unchanged side to face Leeds, although it did seem as though Sulemana was asked to play far closer to his striking partner, ‘Tall Paul’ Onuachu – a contrast to the hosts’ wide attacking approach. Whatever was being tried definitely didn’t work as Saints fashioned just two shots on target, both from distance, neither troubling Meslier much and one occurring after Sulemana and Onuachu had left the pitch. Given the potential importance of this game, it was disappointing that Rubén’s tactics should have been so negative, and the team’s execution of them so inept. We were fortunate that Leeds weren’t much good either (they’re where they are for a good reason) but they were clearly the better side in the first period and might have gone ahead on the stroke of half time had McKennie showed more composure when trying to lob the ball back into the net following an ineffective punch by Bazunu. Not much was changing after the break, prompting a familiar clutch of substitutions around the hour mark – two for Leeds, while on came Diallo, Walcott and Mara for Sulemana, Onuachu and Stuart Armstrong. A fresh approach is all very well, but I felt that the changes not only showed an even more defensive approach but also left us short of any ‘X’ factor should we go behind. Thanks to some sometimes heroic and sometimes fortunate play by the back line, all remained square until the 77th minute. Then Leeds somehow worked the ball to full back Firpo Adames* who shot weakly towards, and somehow beyond, Bazunu – I don’t need to describe further my view of his continual presence in the side (and the failure to address an obvious problem in the January window) but Bednarek’s unhelpful involvement in the move seemed to be merely to get in the keeper’s way. Had this been Saints defending a lead, expect a flurry of late corners and scrambles, but this side was incapable of posing any sort of threat to equalise and in the end the tame defeat could have been greater. A good job they chose to wear their dirty-green kit so they might not easily be recognised.
* Never know what to make of names in the Spanish and Portuguese languages. They include first the father’s then the mother’s family names, e.g. Rubén Sellés Salvador as well – any guidance welcome!
Three LSSC Man of the Match candidates to choose from:
3. Ainsley Maitland-Niles. A lot of questions were asked of him, and I thought he answered them.
8. James Ward-Prowse. A lot of work for him as well, on what seems to have been some sort of record equalling appearance.
45. Roméo Lavia. Yes, he’s our best player by a country mile.