Arsenal Away Drew 3 – 3
To push the metaphor to its extreme, the curve ball that was thrown at Crystal Palace by including Aribo had been hit out of the park, but Rubén tried a similar ploy at Arsenal by selecting Adam Armstrong. Maybe Ramsdale was still laughing as he played the ball away, but only to Alcaraz who returned it with interest, and Saints were ahead within 30 seconds. More early joy was to come, and again Alcaraz was the key man, threading a pass through to Walcott who calmly scored without breaking stride. Too good to be true? Of course, and when Saka outpaced Perraud and crossed behind the expected target area, it was a move anticipated by Martinelli who was unchallenged when firing in. Things seemed to take another backward step when Bednarek launched himself into a header against Martinelli, who unhelpfully ‘made a back’ and the Pole fell heavily on the back of his neck; Bednarek was clearly keen to continue, but medical opinion was against him, so on came Ćaleta-Car. Still Saints could have had turned round with a two goal advantage as Ramsdale saved Elyounoussi’s header rather clumsily but recovered to save well from Alcaraz’s follow-up. A goal, an assist and a near miss wasn’t enough to keep Alcaraz on the pitch for the second half because Lyanco came into a back three. Not a positive move, but the League leaders were always going to come at us hard, whatever, and the rearranged team were coping well enough. Then they won a rare corner and took the risk of sending all the centre backs forward… good move, as Bella-Kotchap headed on and an unmarked Ćaleta-Car was able to score at the far post. Late goals in this part of North London have blighted Southampton’s history on too many occasions, but you have to be confident with a two goal lead and the clock showing 88 minutes. Then Ødegaard gave a frustrated home crowd hope with a shot from outside the box, and you just knew it would all go wrong again. Sure enough the scores were level even before the scheduled end after Nelson shot across Bazunu who could only push it back into play and for once the defence’s heroic blocking failed to stop Saka equalising. There were still eight minutes of added time to negotiate, mainly due to a problem with a line-o’s communication equipment – a flag is no longer deemed sufficient. I’m not sure how many times the ball crossed the half way line in those eight minutes, but bodies were being thrown at every loose ball, and Trossard could only clip the bar from further out as Saints held on.
Three LSSC Man of the Match candidates to choose from. This time there were plenty of candidates.
8. James Ward-Prowse, contributing an impeccable defensive midfield performance… and yet he gets the lowest Southampton score in the BBC stats.
20. Charly Alcaraz. With seven added first half minutes (for Bednarek), he only managed 52 minutes out of 105, but a goal and an assist are bound to put him in the frame. Top man on the BBC, but don’t let that put you off.
37. Armel Bella-Kotchap. Breaking play up is what he does best, plus he had an important assist.