West Brom v Southampton
The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
Saturday, 17th February 2018
IBO Reporter : channonite
So here we were, facing West Brom at the Hawthorns for the second time in a fortnight. As it turned out, Saints won again. The teams have met three times in the 2017/18 season and each time Saints have won. As the fans chanted "Can we play you every week?" After the confidence sapping game against Liverpool the previous Sunday, there were fears that this might be a game Saints would lose. After all the talk mid-week from Mauricio Pellegrino, about how he would give some of the fringe players a run-out, when it came to the crunch there was only Nathan Redmond in the starting line-up, who could even vaguely be described in those terms. It was however, pleasing to see Josh Sims on the bench again, but more about him later.
Before the game, there was the almost unbelievable story of how no fewer than three of the first team squad, Yoshida, Davis and Boufal, had all been injured in the same training session. Something that was hard to credit, to be honest.
As for the starting eleven, once again, McCarthy was in goal and the back four were Cédric, Stephens, Hoedt and Bertrand. Midfield this time was made up of Højbjerg, Lemina and Ward-Prowse, with Tadić and the returning Redmond out wide, with Carrillo in the lone strikers role.
In the opposition camp, there was not a little controversy during the week, when three of their senior players hit the headlines, while on a break abroad they found themselves stranded out late at night and simply helped themselves to a taxi (sans driver) to drive themselves back to their hotel. A bit of a challenge to handle for their manager (and ex-Saints manager), Alan Pardew.
From the kick-off, Saints seemed to be slightly hesitant, with several passes going astray. Having said that, there was a determined air about the way they were playing. We did not have to wait long for the first goal. From a throw-in on the left the ball found it's way to Cédric on the right and he won a corner after his cross hit a defender and went behind. Ward-Prowse took the corner and all the defenders missed it, with the ball falling invitingly at the feet of Wesley Hoedt, who totally unmarked, made no mistake, side footing it into the net. Eleven minutes gone and Saints led 0-1.
The rest of the half was all about Saints domination and you could see why West Brom are currently the only side we have done the double over. Right on the stroke of half-time there was an amazing decision by the referee, when Carrillo went for and won the ball jumping against the Egyptian, Hegazi. The West Brom player went down as though he had been shot. For a few tense moments, it looked as though the referee, Chris Kavanagh, was going to brandish a red card, but in the end it was a yellow. TV replays showed that Carrillo had won the ball cleanly and it shouldn't even have been a yellow. This was not the first and most definitely not the last time during the match, that Mr Kavanagh would get things wrong. Meanwhile, the clearly bemused Carrillo was led away by Hoedt, who put a consoling arm around the Argentinian's shoulder.
So, half-time, one up and cruising. We have seen that more than once this season, would this be followed by a less than impressive second half?
At least in one respect, the second half started as the first had gone, with Hoedt making mistake after mistake. On one occasion he completely mis-judged the ball's bounce, allowing Jay Rodriguez to waltz past him and bear down on the Saints goal, but fortunately McCarthy tipped his shot wide to the right. From the resulting West Brom corner, McCarthy was again in action pushing the ball over. He went on to make save after save, with one in particular one sticking in the mind. A West Brom player shot from some distance, seemingly destined for the bottom left corner and McCarthy moving towards it. The ball struck Hoedt on the way and it was deflected to the right. Somehow, McCarthy managed to change direction and make an amazing save. Outstanding.
Saints were pretty much constantly pinned back at this stage, but then came a marvellous, incisive breakaway. From a West Brom shot across the face of Saints goal, Bertrand's defending header found Carrillo near the halfway line. He in turn headed back to Redmond out on the left wing, while running into space further forward. The Englishman passed back to the Argentinian striker, who then lifted the ball over the head of the defenders to Tadić on the edge of the penalty area. Avoiding two defenders and the advancing Foster, he coolly chipped the ball over the keeper's head into the empty net. 0-2. Wow! A great passage of play and for the first time you could see how Carrillo is going to make a difference. I still don't see him as the sort of player to hold up the ball, but this was great vision and quick thinking from the Argentinian.
So, eleven minutes into the second half and 2-0 up, what could possibly go wrong? With the error strewn Saints defence, probably a lot. McCarthy had already made more than a few crucial saves (what an inspired signing he is turning out to have been!), to spare the blushes of his team-mates.
As it was, a mere two minutes after Tadić scored, the lead was back to a single goal, after a simply wonderful strike from Rondón. A 30 yard forward pass from deep inside the West Brom half, was volleyed left footed by the big No.9 without breaking his stride and McCarthy didn't have a hope of saving it. 1-2.
Having seen how Saints could be undone by direct play, West Brom then played the long-ball card for all it was worth. To his credit, Pellegrino didn't do his usual defensive thing, but replaced Redmond with Gabbiadini (who looks a shadow of his former self) and then Højbjerg was substituted with Romeu. The last fifteen minutes turned into a good old fashioned cup tie, with Saints just about holding it all together. McCarthy cleared one shot off the line, with an outstretched glove and then, when he was beaten, Bertrand was on hand to clear off the line.
The heartwarming moment came in the 85th minute, when the clearly tiring Carrillo was replaced by young Josh Sims. The youngster had an immediate impact, as he ran with pace directly at the West Brom defenders, who had no real answer to him. I hope we see more of his exuberance in the coming weeks, the team could certainly use his pace.
The four minutes of added time were notable for seeing Foster up, in and around the Saints penalty area, both teams players all being in the visitor's half. Somehow the team hung on for the win.
Later that evening, the draw for the ¼ finals took place and Saints will be away to the winners of the Wigan v Manchester City tie. As some say, you have to be in it to win it. We still are.
Man of the Match
Only one candidate in my eyes. Alex McCarthy was quite simply the difference in this match. Not only did he make the crucial saves, he also dominated his area with confidence.
10 Phillips (Burke 89')
20 Krychowiak - Booked 30' (Field 82')
18 Barry (Brunt 72')
14 McClean - Booked 42'
16 Gabr Mossad
23 Højbjerg (Romeu 78')
18 Lemina - Booked 75'
22 Redmond (Gabbiadini 72')
9 Carrillo - Booked 45' (Sims 85')
Sat 17th Feb 2018
West Brom 1
- Rondón 58'
- Hoedt 11'
- Tadic 56'
Referee : Chris Kavanagh
Attendance : 17,600
- West Brom 47%
- Southampton 53%
- West Brom 23
- Southampton 5
Shots on Target
- West Brom 7
- Southampton 3
- West Brom 13
- Southampton 4
- West Brom 6
- Southampton 15