Huddersfield v Southampton
22nd December 2018
An understandably overjoyed Obefami after scoring his first Premier League goal for Saints
IBO Reporter : channonite
Outstanding. The first back to back wins since beating West Brom in April 2017. It just feels as though Saints really are on the brink of a new, more positive era. At last there is a tiny bit of breathing space between Saints in 16th place and the bottom three, with a 3 point gap having appeared between them and Burnley who are now in 18th (The curse of the UEFA League seems to have well and truly struck there).
Just for once there were no shocks, or indeed any changes at all to the starting line-up. Bertrand and Cédric were still on the injured list, but the returning Lemina could only make the bench. One of the main criticisms of Hughes was that he was always chopping and changing the team, often for no discernible reason. With The Hutch™ the message is clear, perform and you will keep your place.
So, once again it was McCarthy in goal, with a back three of Bednarek, Yoshida and Vestergaard. The wing backs were Valery and Targett, with Romeu and Højbjerg in midfield. Armstrong and Redmond wide, with top scorer, Danny Ings in the middle.
A game of two halves and in the first half Saints were almost completely on top, but strangely enough, there wasn't much sign of the much vaunted pressing game, but we were seemingly happy to wait for Huddersfield to make a mistake and then pounce on it.
Setting the tone early on, there was a lovely passage of play, which showed the best of Saints, always looking to move forward. Bednarek to Højbjerg, to Vestergaard, to Armstrong, to Redmond, to Højbjerg (who had sprinted from deep in the Saints half), to Ings, to Targett who crossed the ball, but the Huddersfield goalie got a hand to it, pushing it out, Valery could not quite react fast enough to turn the ball in and got a fair whack from a defender for his troubles. The ball came out to meet the onrushing Romeu, who thumped a first time shot, but directly at the goalie, who fell to his knees, gratefully clutching the ball to his chest. Excellent attacking play.
Saints first goal came shortly after, with a similar build up, but this time Højbjerg hit the proverbial slide-rule pass almost from the centre circle up to Redmond who raced onto the ball, between two defenders and rifled a glorious shot into the top right of the Huddersfield net. 0-1.
The Saints supporters in the away section, wearing their club supplied Father Christmas hats, loved this.
Redmond and Ings were running the defenders ragged and the second goal just before half-time came from some panic inducing play between the two of them Redmond short-passed it to Ings in the penalty area, but the ball ran slightly away from him, but before he could move back towards the ball, a defender needlessly scythed him down. The referee had a clear view of this and immediately pointed to the spot. Penalty. Ings took it himself and with a little stuttering run sent the goalie the wrong way to score his 7th goal of the season. Cue more waving of Father Christmas hats in the away section. 0-2 and cruising.
The second half was not so straightforward. Huddersfield could hardly be as ineffectual as the were in the first half and no doubt came out with Wagner's half time talk still reverberating in their ears.
Early on there was a warning for the Saints players not to become too complacent, as they indulged in a passage of head tennis around the penalty area, culminating in a one handed save by McCarthy from a Jorgensen header.
Huddersfield pulled a goal back with a spectacular and speculative long range effort from Billing, completely out of the blue and McCarthy will be disappointed that it beat him so easily. 1-2 and the Huddersfield fans ramped up the noise.
Saints were on the rack for a few minutes and shortly after conceding had reason to be grateful to McCarthy as he made a good save from a Mbenza header and then claimed the ball decisively in a goalmouth scramble.
Hasenhüttl reacted by replacing Ings with Obefami and shortly after, Armstrong was replaced by Lemina. Both immediately had an impact and Obefami was almost through on goal after a defence splitting pass from Vestergaard (Yes, he can play football after all!), but the ball ran agonisingly wide of the far post.
The third and deciding Saints goal came in the 71st minute and owed a lot to Redmond's sheer bloody mindedness and refusal to be dispossessed. Having made the Huddersfield defender look more than a bit silly, he cut the ball back to Obefami and the youngster took a brief moment to compose himself and from no more than ten yards out, swept the ball home for his first ever Premier League goal. My word, was he a happy bunny! 1-3 to Saints.
The remainder of the game involved running down the clock. Valery, who had not had an easy time in the second half, was replaced by Stephens and the final whistle was greeted by a general outpouring of emotion. Hasenhüttl went over to applaud the Saints fans, who had been very vocal all afternoon, to be joined by a very happy Obafemi.
Man of the Match
Difficult. Once again there were several candidates, ranging from Vestergaard, who simply exceeded my expectations, but still has a way to go yet, to the once again excellent Højbjerg. however, there was only one real candidate in my mind and that was Nathan Redmond, who at last added an end product to his peerless approach play.
So, two wins on the bounce and a breathing space above the drop zone. Quite some achievement in such a short space of time. Saints appeared dead in the water a couple of weeks ago and yet now seem transformed. Maybe not a good idea to get too far ahead of ourselves, because we could yet come a cropper at the hands of West Ham the day after Boxing Day, but somehow not even that would shake my belief that a corner has been turned. Indeed, I keep finding myself wondering how on earth Saints have managed to attract such a seemingly very good manager. Wonders will never cease.
The players after the first consecutive win since April 2017
25 M Jorgensen - Booked 63'
7 Bacuna (Kachunga 65')
15 Löwe - Booked 11' (Durm 45')
18 Mbenza (Quaner 81')
43 Valery - Booked 52' (Stephens 79' - Booked 84')
23 Højbjerg - Booked 86'
17 Armstrong (Lemina 69')
9 Ings (Obafemi 65')
Saturday 22nd December
- Billing 58'
- Redmond 15'
- Ings 42' (pen)
- Obafemi 71'
Referee: Stuart Attwell
- Huddersfield 63%
- Southampton 37%
- Huddersfield 16
- Southampton 13
Shots on Target
- Huddersfield 5
- Southampton 6
- Huddersfield 8
- Southampton 2
- Huddersfield 12
- Southampton 9