Swansea v Southampton
The Liberty Stadium, Saturday 13th February 2016
> A Shane Long headed goal the decider
> Saints up to 6th in the League, 1 point behind 5th placed Man Utd
And Saints continue to confound the pessimists .....
At the end of Saturday's games, Saints had gone above West Ham into 6th place in the League and were a single point behind Manchester United in 5th place. The last six games have seen 5 wins and the draw with Arsenal. I think that is a pretty good return by any standards and it has completely transformed Saints season.
This game saw the defence deal very comfortably with the Swans lacklustre attack, but still had time for 86th minute substitute, Maya Yoshida to almost concede a penalty in the final minute of normal time.
Where Saints did labour a bit (again) was up at the front and Graziano Pellè in particular looked out of sorts and perhaps just needs that bit of luck to set him off on another scoring run. In this game he actually had the ball in the net, only for the referee, Jon Moss, to rule it out for a foul by José Fonte on the Swansea goalie, Fabianski.
When I saw the team sheet before kick-off I was confused. At first glance it looked as it there was no right back at all. Cédric was on the bench, as was Yoshida, who has been used in that position before. Both the recognised left backs, Bertrand and Targett were playing. Davis was back in the side after injury and Ward-Prowse was playing. The ever improving Clasie and Romeu were in the midfield and upfront were Long and Pellè, which struck me as odd, given Graziano's well known allergy for scoring away from home. Mané was on the bench. A bit of a different look to the team then.
Watching the game from a distance, I was struck how fluid Saints now look, changing formation and moving around, without ever looking pressured. Ward-Prowse in particular was causing all sorts of problems for Swansea, with his accurate crossing. I think we are seeing now, what we all have been waiting for, the youngster to actually look the business, rather than just to show promise. If only our multi-talented forwards could just tuck a few of the chances created away. In this game there were 13 shots on goal, with five on target and just Shane Long's headed goal to show for it.
As early as the 6th minute Pellè had a shot on goal saved by Fabianski. It at least showed intent by the big Italian and I just don't understand the stick he is getting from some so called Saints fans on social media. Have they got such short memories?
The impressive pairing of Clasie and Romeu swiftly gained control of the midfield and Swansea were finding it hard to get control of the ball.
Just after the half-hour, Romeu got booked for a foul which looked no worse than some others the referee had let go. The big Spaniard was going to have to tread carefully for the rest of the game.
Just before half-time, Shane Long headed straight at Fabianski from a Stephen Davis cross, the Swans keeper being kept busy, in contrast to Forster, who was little more than in interested spectator for the vast majority of this half.
So, goalless at the half. Would Saints rue their lack of end product from their domination, as has happened so often this season?
Swansea came out looking a bit more determined, but without troubling Saints defenders very much. It still looked as if a goal would come from Saints, rather than their Welsh hosts.
In the 57th minute the ball was actually in the Swans net, put there from a scrambled effort from Pellè, but Jon Moss immediately ruled it out for a foul on the Swans goalie by José Fonte. My impression was that it was fine, but then Mr. Moss has a track record with Saints that is almost as bad as the Clattenburg.
It didn't really matter, as just ten minutes later Shane Long connected with a wonderful Ward-Prowse cross to plant the ball past Fabianski. In fact the goalie did manage to get a hand on the ball, but only contrived to push it into the net. 0-1.
Romeu had by then given way to Cédric and shortly after the goal Charlie Austin came on for Pellè. By now Swansea were seeing a lot more of the ball, but again, with little effect.
Four minutes from the end, Maya Yoshida replaced Matt Targett and Saints were seeing the game out, when the Japanese had a coming together with the Swans No.9, Paloschi and there were immediate appeals from all the Swansea players, but the much maligned Jon Moss waved the appeals away.
So, Saints ran out worthy winners, although I had the feeling the win should have been more comfortable than it was. My MoM, for what it is worth, was the excellent James Ward-Prowse, who at last is looking like the player I hoped that he would become.
22 Rangel (Naughton 67')
7 Britton (Gomis 7')
15 Routledge (Barrow 6')
4 Ki Sung-yueng
17 van Dijk
16 Ward-Prowse - Booked 90'
4 Clasie - Booked 64'
14 Romeu - Booked 32' (Cédric 63')
33 Targett (Yoshida 86')
19 Pellè (Austin 74')
- Long 69’
Referee : Jonathan Moss
Attendance : 20,890
- Swansea 55%
- Southampton 45%
- Swansea 13
- Southampton 13
Shots on Target
- Swansea 2
- Southampton 5
- Swansea 5
- Southampton 4
- Swansea 10
- Southampton 12