|Saints came into this on the back of a very poor 3-0 away loss to Burnley and a much better performance, but still ultimately another loss, at home to Liverpool. So, no points in the first two games, but it is still early days and over the years Saints fans have become used to 'slow' starts. This is clearly not good enough for our manager though.
During the week one of the playing staff problems was solved in the short term, when Fraser Forster went to Celtic on loan for the rest of the season. Hopefully he will manage to rediscover some sort of form and enable Saints to recoup some sort of fee for him next Summer.
As for Saints team on the day, in front of Angus Gunn were a back four of Valery, Bednarek, Vestergaard and the big surprise, Kevin Danso making his Saints debut in place of Bertrand. I had assumed that Ryan Bertrand injuring an ankle in the lead up to the match was the reason for the unexpected start for the Austrian, but from information coming to light after the match, this was not the case. This was a planned change. The midfield duo were Højbjerg and Romeu, with Ward-Prowse and Redmond wide. Returning to the starting line-up was Danny Ings, joining Adams in the front pair. In case anyone didn't notice, this was the first time for ages that Ralph Hasenhüttl has employed his favoured 4-2-2-2 ... And won.
Once again, the bench looked strong, as along with McCarthy, were Cédric, Yoshida, Djenepo, Armstrong, Boufal and Obafemi. It is good to see both Cédric and particularly Boufal reintegrated into the side.
Djenepo scored Saints first goal just after coming on in place of Valery
IBO Reporter : channonite
|The match was evenly balanced to begin with, but watching, one problem with the late substitution was quickly apparent, in that Danso was often having to act as a third central defender, as well as covering the left wing-back position. Not only that, but Redmond was having to track back to cover the left wing-back position for the out of position Danso. This was not Danso's fault, but the fact that Bednarek and Vestergaard together cannot reliably operate as the central defence 100% of the time. The end result of this was that there was next to no threat down the Saints left.
The dangers of this formation were quickly illustrated by Montoya, being tracked back by Redmond, who managed to burst into the area and connect with a cross from the left, to head only just wide of Gunn's left hand upright.
At the other end, Ings was clearly up for it and was having a good game. He was heavily involved with one lovely flowing move, which came to an end when Ward-Prowse was dispossessed by Trossard, with a very well timed tackle.
The whole complexion of the game was changed on the half-hour, when Andone went in on Valery with a very high tackle, which caught him about knee level. Valery was saved from a nasty injury, simply because he was already turning away from the the tackle. Credit to Mr. Friend, never one of my favourite referees, who had a perfect view of what happened and had no hesitation in showing a straight red card. Looking at the replays, the tackle actually looked worse. VAR confirmed the referee's decision and Brighton were down to 10 men.
As you often see when a team goes one man down, Brighton stepped up their efforts and actually had the ball in the net at one point. Brighton won a corner on the right and Trossard took an out-swinging shot, which met Valery's head at the near post, but the ball only went as far as Dunk who sent a thumping header into the net. The referee indicated a goal, but immediately he was contacted by the VAR team. What hadn't been noticed by the majority of the crowd was the Brighton defender Burn had been standing right in front of Gunn on the goal line and had backed into the Saints goalie, pushing him to the floor. Offside, foul, or both? After going to VAR review the 'goal' was rightly disallowed.
A busy and eventful first half came to an end without a goal being scored, so we were all hoping that Saints could make the extra man count in the second half.
Very quickly in the second half Ralph Hasenhüttl decided on a change, replacing Yan Valery with Moussa Djenepo in the 53rd minute. At the same time the shape was changed from 4-2-2-2 to 3-4-2-1. This paid dividends within less than two minutes, as the Malian latched onto a wonderful cross field pass from Danny Ings, looked up and fired a wonderful curling shot, right into the top right corner of the Brighton goal. 1-0. What an absolute corker of a goal Moussa. This man is going to be a fans favourite - if he isn't already.
Redmond was having a cracking match and nothing illustrated his resurrection under Hasenhüttl more than when he took the ball from the Brighton No.6, Stephens and advancing into the D, before shooting agonisingly just wide of Ryan's goal.
Saints really needed another goal to kill off any remaining hope that Brighton had and the longer it went on, the more edgy the Saints fans became.
Saints won a corner out on the left, which was taken by Ward-Prowse, who lofted the ball into the area, Vestergaard flicked it on to the far post, where Adams was lurking, but his point blank shot was blocked by one of the Brighton defenders.
As the game entered it's last ten minutes, Hasenhüttl decided to change things again. In rapid succession he took off Ings, who had run himself into the ground, replacing him with Armstrong and then replaced Adams with Boufal.
Then came perhaps Brighton's best chance of the game. From a corner, taken by Groß, Murray headed the ball down to the feet of Locadia who, with the goal at his mercy, somehow contrived to hit the outside of the upright from no more than 3 yards out. What a let-off.
With the fans checking their watches, in between chewing their fingernails, we entered the five minutes of time added on, Saints played probably their best attacking move of the match. Redmond took the ball deep in the Saints half, with Armstrong to his right and Boufal to his left, it was three against three. Redmond passed right to Armstrong who shot, but it was parried by the advancing Ryan. Saints were not finished, Ward-Prowse collecting the loose ball and passing to Højbjerg, who in turn found Boufal. The Moroccan then showed what we have been missing as, surrounded by four Brighton defenders, he got to the byline and sent a perfect pass across of the face of goal to find the onrushing Redmond. 2-0. Game Over.
Even then there was just time for Brighton to get close to a goal, when Trossard hoisted a ball onto the top go the Saints crossbar, as a relieved Gunn saw the ball bounce harmlessly away.
That was that. Three points at last. Saints are up and running.
Man of the Match
There were so many good things to take from this match. Djenepo looking like a real livewire and scoring a very good goal, Boufal beginning to show the benefits of being managed properly, Danso having a very effective and low-key debut in an unfamiliar position, but for me the stand-out performance was from Nathan Redmond who popped up all over the pitch and was the clear Man of the Match.