Southampton v West Brom
Saturday, 21st October 2017
IBO Reporter : channonite
This match will forever be remembered for those glorious few seconds which ended with Sofiane Boufal caressing the ball safely into the back of Foster's net. It was one of the very best goals that I have seen at St.Mary's and I am sure that it would have pleased the heart of Matt Le Tissier. That was certainly up there with The Pirate's goal against Manchester City.
Prior to that wonder goal, things were very much business as usual. Tony Pulis had set up West Brom with the absolute minimum of ambition. Their one aim was simple - not to lose. They were well organised, but my god, were they dull. With Saints well publicised aversion to actually scoring, it didn't seem unreasonable to expect another 0-0. Except that Saints had gradually fallen down the League table and really, really needed to start winning again.
The first surprise was the Saints team. Up until now, Mauricio Pellegrino had steadfastly stuck to playing a single striker, but this time and with so much riding on the result, he elects to start with two. Both Gabbiadini and Long are in the line-up. Personally, I was pleased to see Davis back in the line-up. For me, the team always looks better balanced with him playing. The rest of the team was pretty much as you would expect. In front of Forster the back four were unchanged - Cédric, Yoshida, van Dijk and Bertrand. Romeu and Lemina were the midfield, with a fluid (we hoped!) forward line of Davis, Tadić, Gabbiadini and Long.
Right from the start West Brom were time wasting. Foster was taking ages to put the ball back into play and I noticed that a Baggies fan was on 606 after the game saying that they were doing this AT HOME the previous week. We complain about Saints, but at least they try to attack. Ridiculous.
For all West Brom's negative tactics, Saints were able to create chance after chance, but couldn't take them. Early on there was almost a lucky break, when Ryan Bertrand took a free kick directly in front of the goal and his shot hit Evans (I think) in the wall and cannoned off the post, with Foster going the other way.
The next chance came from a Saints corner and wasn't cleared. The ball seemed to bounce about in the West Brom penalty area for and age and ended with Romeu spinning around and knocking it wide.
We didn't have to wait long for the next chance. On one of the rare Baggies attacks the ball broke to Gabbiadini on the left wing and he raced down watching Long doing the same in the centre. He crossed it on the run to Long, who was in a great position, but somehow contrived to knock it wide.
The last good chance of the half was a thumping header from Maya Yoshida, but unfortunately it was straight at Foster, who pushed it wide.
After the break it was clear that Pulis had switched them to five at the back, but now Rondón and Rodriguez (I had almost forgotten that he was on the pitch) were making some headway against Saints defence.
A long ball found JRod and he made for goal. Forster had already demonstrated a spectacular lack of confidence with a mix-up that he was very lucky to get away with, so we watched with justifiable nervousness. We needn't have worried, as JRod demonstrated why Saints had let him go, by shanking the shot nearer the corner flag than the goal.
Then Tadić and Foster tangled in the West Brom penalty area, ending with the Serb on his backside and appealing for a penalty as the goalkeeper booted the ball upfield. The ref was unmoved.
Mauricio Pellegrino then started to make changes, initially bringing on Redmond for Romeu. Then, ten minutes later he made a double substitution, bringing on Boufal for Tadić and Austin for Long.
Within three minutes Boufal had made his presence felt. Deep in his own half he won the ball and started off up the pitch, avoiding two tackles as he went into the West Brom half. There was an exquisite moment when, with two defenders bearing down on him, he just dropped his right shoulder and left them to collide with each other. One of them, Dawson, was injured enough to have to be taken off, but Pulis had already used his three substitutes, so they had to play the remaining game one man short. Meanwhile, leaving the carnage behind, Boufal wended his way towards goal. Avoiding three more defenders, he curled the ball into the far corner of the goal, beyond Foster's despairing dive. GOAL!!
The crowd went mmmmental! A moment of sheer brilliance was rightly met by a deafening wall of sound.
The remaining six minutes, plus four minutes added on passed without any more drama and Saints had their crucial win, lifting them up to 10th in the table.
Nothing that I could write (and I have spent not a little time over it!) could begin to do credit to that goal and I will remember it for a long time. Could it mark a turning point for Saints?
Man of the Match
Do you really have to ask?! He may have only been on the pitch for a grand total of 13 minutes, but Sofiane Boufal certainly made his mark in this game.
Captain Steven Davis had a good game. Ex-Saint Jay Rodriguez didn't
17 van Dijk
14 Romeu (Redmond 69')
11 Tadić (Boufal 81')
7 Long (Austin 81')
25 Dawson (Off Injured 88')
6 Evans (Nyom 32')
18 Barry (McAuley 53')
22 Chadli - Booked 67' (Phillips 77')
- Boufal 85'
West Brom 0
Referee : Graham Scott
Attendance : 29,947
- Southampton 66%
- West Brom 34%
- Southampton 20
- West Brom 7
Shots on Target
- Southampton 6
- West Brom 2
- Southampton 8
- West Brom 3
- Southampton 10
- West Brom 8