Southampton v Cardiff
9th February 2019
Jack Stephens scored a goal that looked like it might have been a last ditch equaliser. But, it wasn't to be the final goal of the game
IBO Reporter : channonite
That ending was a right kick in the teeth, for all the Saints fans and all the Saints players, in fact for anyone with any sort of connection to Saints. For a game where the only important thing was that Saints should not lose the game, what did they go and do? Lose it in the last seconds of time added on. This is becoming a bloody habit.
Leading up to the last two or three games, there was an air of optimism and even confidence that the team had turned a corner and they were heading for the calmer waters of mid-table. But, particularly in the last two home games the team has looked and behaved more like one of Mark Hughes gutless wonders. Having said all of that, this was the first actual league match that they have lost in 2019.
As for the team, there were some changes, but not at the back, that was McCarthy in goal and the three centre-backs of Bednarek, Stephens and Vestergaard. Both wing-backs were different, with Valery returning on the right and on the left was Bertrand, after his lengthy spell out injured. In midfield there was some more changes, returning to the trio of Højbjerg, Romeu and Ward-Prowse, with Slattery dropping back to the bench. At the front were Redmond and Long. Not very inspiring, but surely with enough to see off Cardiff.
Before the start of the match we saw a minutes silence observed for the Argentinian player, Emiliano Sala, whose body had been recovered during the week from The English Channel, following his plane crash in the way to Cardiff from Nantes. There were plenty of Argentinian flags to be seen in the away end.
Saints kicked off towards the Northam end and for the first twenty minutes or so, were completely in control. Cardiff seemed to have turned up with the simple ambition of avoiding defeat. Saints were playing some nice football out of defence and getting into decent positions. But, and it was a big but, they were continually running into blind alleys and the Cardiff goal was hardly threatened.
Around the half hour mark there were the first signs of uneasiness amongst the Saints fans and the players seemed to be running out of ideas. As we have seen before, this was an effective away formation, but playing at home and there just was not enough threat up front. Time and again Valery, Bertrand, Højbjerg, Ward-Prowse and Redmond would get into a good position, but things would just fizzle out. Meanwhile, Long was - just Long
We got to half time with the score still 0-0. It had been a pretty poor first half, but never mind Ralph Hasenhüttl would sort them out in the dressing room, wouldn't he?
Oh no, more of the same. We had chances, but only from distance. Etheridge was hardly troubled for most of the match. In fact our most effective threat came from the excellent Yan Valery, who is really growing into the right wing-back role.
Eventually the first goal came in the 69th minute, but it wasn't from Saints. In a classic piece of Saints comedy defending, a corner on the left was whipped in and every defender stared at the ball, Paterson headed goalward, but Bamba stuck a boot out and the ball shot past a wrong footed McCarthy. Bamba ran around the back of the goal and jumped into the jubilant Cardiff fans in the Northam to celebrate. Needless to say the ref was not impressed and booked him. 0-1. Bugger.
Someone else not impressed was Hasenhüttl who had looked unhappy before the goal, but looked furious now. Within two minutes he made a double substitution, with Austin on for Long and Elyounoussi on for Vestergaard. My personal feeling at the time was that the manager had the got the team wrong to begin with and this double substitution did nothing to improve things.
The best chance to this point came from an amazing run from Valery, evading several attempted tackles and bursting into the penalty area, where his shot on goal was blocked by Etheridge and the ball pinged around between several players, Austin and Elyounoussi included, before it went behind for a corner. The corner ended with Austin heading over the bar.
The excellent Valery then was replaced by Sam Gallagher. "Bloody Hell" was my neighbours only comment to this development...
Although Etheridge tipped a Ward-Prowse free kick around the post, you just sensed that the game was slipping away and the stands started to empty as the game headed towards full time. Then, as the game drifted into time added on, the unthinkable happened. Saints scored!
Redmond got to the byline with one of his surging runs and his cross was hit behind for a corner on the right. Ward-Prowse sent an in-swinging kick towards the near post, which Charlie Austin flicked on and in an almost carbon copy of the Cardiff goal, the defenders were guilty of ball watching, allowing Jack Stephens to sneak in and tap into to the net from all of two yards out. Bearing in mind the penalty he gave away at Burnley last week, this must have felt like pay back time. Just look at his face above! The place went nuts. 1-1. Brilliant.
But this is Saints we are talking about and wishing two minutes they had chucked it away. AGAIN.
From the kick off Cardiff went route one and the ball was collected by Stephens, who was probably still thinking about the goal he had just scored and succeeded in passing the ball straight to a blue shirt. The ball came into Saints penalty area and pinged around for what seemed an age, all the while everyone around me was screaming at the players to boot it clear. All-right, I admit it, I was screaming at them as well! Eventually it came to Zahore, one of their subs, who hit the ball through a veritable forest of legs into the net. 1-2. Fu@king boll@cks. The Cardiff players, fans and bench went ballistic and rightly so, they had just won the match, done the double over us and got out of the bottom three.
I don't know about anyone else, but I was numb and speechless. I just remember looking around at the final whistle and seeing that about two thirds of the crowd had already left. Those that remained looked like zombies.
A clearly furious Ralph Hasenhüttl said after the match that, Saints have "no chance of staying in the league" if they continue to perform as they did on Saturday and "What we did now was to roll a big stone in our way and to remove that will take a lot of time." Can't say I disagree with that, although I would add that some of the blame was his, for both his initial team selection and subsequent substitutions, when it all started to go horribly wrong.
Now we have a mountain to climb.
Yan Valery had a good game at right back, until injured and subsequently substituted
Ryan Bertrand had his first game back after an operation on a back injury that has kept him out of the side since before Christmas
4 Vestergaard (Elyounoussi 72')
43 Valery (Gallagher 83')
14 Romeu - Booked 90'
16 Ward-Prowse - Booked 45'
7 Long (Austin 72')
22 Redmond - Booked 89'
5 Ecuele Manga
22 Bamba - Booked 70'
17 Gunnarsson - Booked 61' (Bacuna 62')
14 De Cordova-Reid (Zohore 62' - Booked 90')
29 Niasse (Camarasa 83')
Saturday, 9th February
- Stephens 90'+1
- Bamba 69'
- Zohore 90'+3
Referee: Martin Atkinson
- Southampton 67%
- Cardiff 33%
- Southampton 14
- Cardiff 6
Shots on Target
- Southampton 7
- Cardiff 3
- Southampton 8
- Cardiff 2
- Southampton 15
- Cardiff 12