IBO Reporter : channonite
|So, the first meeting between the two teams in the Premier League for nine years and not many good memories of a fair few of those meetings to be honest. It was obvious, right from the start that the pitch was going to be a major factor in the game, as both sides players were having trouble loosing their footing.
Saints belied their dreadful League form by taking the game to Leeds and almost scoring in the first five minutes. Saints earned a free kick, wide on the right of the Leeds penalty area. Ward-Prowse took the kick, sending a perfectly flighted, curling ball into the penalty area to meet the head of the sprinting Vestergaard, who had shaken his marker. Unfortunately, he didn't time his header quite so well and it went sailing wide of the target.
Shortly after, from a McCarthy clearance, Saints worked up the left side, avoiding some fairly robust challenges along the way. Eventually a Leeds foot stuck out to foil Romeu's progress and the ball fell nicely for Nathan Tella, who wriggled past two, or three defenders, made space for himself and shot - straight at the keeper.
Leeds then had a golden opportunity to score, when some good work down Saints left by Raphinha, saw the Brazilian get to the byline, behind Saints defenders and squared back for the onrushing Roberts, who volleyed the ball first time, high over the crossbar and into the empty stand behind the goal.
This was turning into a competitive game, punctuated by players slipping on the disintegrating playing surface. Goals were coming and so were mistakes.
The next bit of action was a trademark long diagonal ball from Vestergaard to Bertrand, who appeared clean through, but in controlling the ball with his chest he was judged by Mr. Marriner to have controlled the ball with his arm. In spite of the disappointing outcome to the move, we have sorely missed Vestergaard's accurate distribution while he was out injured and it was good to see that he can still do it.
Then we had our first brush with VAR of the evening, when James Ward-Prowse intercepted a Leeds pass and quickly sent Nathan Tella steaming towards goal. Entering the area it looked as though a defender had tripped Tella and Mr. Marriner straightaway pointed to the spot. The decision went to VAR and it appeared from tv replays that Tella had hit the defender. The referee went to the pitch-side monitor and after reviewing it for a minute, turned and awarded a free kick to Leeds. I wasn't happy, but it was the right decision.
Saints went straight onto the attack again, but a pass was intercepted and a long, high pass over everyones head, saw Raphinha clean through in a one on one with McCarthy. Just as a goal looked an absolute cast iron certainty, seemingly from nowhere, appeared Oriol Romeu and the Spaniard, timing his tackle to absolute perfection, took the ball right off Raphinha's toe and McCarthy was able to gather up the loose ball. Astounding bit of defending from Romeu.
Then came another controversial moment, when Stuart Armstrong earned a free kick just inside the Leeds half. Up stepped Ward-Prowse who took the kick quickly and slid the ball through to Adams, who slotted the ball past the keeper, thinking he had scored to put Saints ahead. Mr. Marriner was having none of it and blew his whistle several times, waving away the protestations of all the Saints players. He made Saints take the kick again and this time it came to nothing, going behind for a goal kick.
That was the last action of the half and we were still goalless, but not for want of trying. During the break the Sky cameras showed huge divots that had come out of the pitch and which the ground staff were trying to patch up as best they could.
From the kick off for the start of the second half, Saints kept up the pressure and Adams got near the goal and passed back to Redmond, who was perfectly placed, but he could only shoot straight into the goalkeepers grateful arms.
The, out of nowhere, Leeds took the lead. From the previous attack, Meslier cleared to Roberts, who sent an enormous kick upfield for Bamford to run onto. The Leeds striker was beyond and between Bednarek and Vestergaard, with only McCarthy in front of him. The giant Saints No.4 made a half-hearted attempt to stick a boot out, but Bamford made no mistake and slotted home, past McCarthy, who perhaps could have done better. 1-0 and only two minutes into the half.
After the promise of the first half, Saints were now seeming to revert to type and the floods gates were on the verge of opening. Mere moments after Bamford's opening goal, Roberts missed a glorious chance to make it 2-0, blazing wide, when it seemed easier to hit the target.
Leeds were all over Saints now and McCarthy made two saves in less than a minute to deny first Bamford and then Roberts. It just seemed like a matter of time before the home side doubled the score.
Just before the 60' mark Ralph could not sit and watch the one way traffic any more, pulling off Tella (who had played really well) and Redmond, sending on in their place Minamino and Ings.
Still Leeds came forward, with McCarthy sticking a foot out to deny Llorente this time.
It was not completely one way, although looking back on it now, it seemed like stat the time. Saints actually managed a corner, from which they almost scored. James Ward-Prowse (What on earth would we do without him??) sent another of his pin point shots into the penalty area to be met by the head of Vestergaard whose attempt seemed goal bound beyond the keeper, until Bamford popped up in defence to clear off the line.
The second goal arrived and was made to look routine by Leeds. Substitute Hélder Costa raced down the Saints left, crossing to Dallas, surrounded by Bednarek, Vestergaard and Salisu, but still managing to shoot past a diving McCarthy. 2-0 and just over ten minutes left, but you felt that the game was already beyond Saints ability to win at 1-0, now even a draw looked unlikely.
Still Saints had their chances, the last coming when Bednarek got to the byline and hooked back for Vestergaard, but in the melee, Meslier gratefully fell on the ball and the face-saving chance of a goal was gone.
The final ignominy was in progress from the minute Oriol Romeu had to go off injured, when both he and a Leeds defender slipped on the pitch and the Saints player received a hefty kick on the ankle in the process. Later we were to find out the the Spaniard had in fact broken a bone in his ankle and will be out for several weeks. On came Moussa Djenepo to replace the unfortunate Romeu.
From the previous Saints attack Leeds worked the ball out to Hélder Costa, who went charging down the wing, to be unceremoniously upended by Djenepo just outside the penalty area, which earned the Saints man a yellow card and gave Leeds a free kick in a dangerous position.
Up stepped Raphinha to take the kick and sent a superb shot over the wall and beyond McCarthy to make it 3-0 and made the 3 points theirs for sure.
So, another game where we were overwhelmed in the second half. Everyone now seems to know that they just have to be patient and they can pick us off in the second half. What can Ralph do to stop the rot? Whatever it is, it will have to be without Oriol Romeu for now.
Man of the Match
Sticking in my mind is Nathan Tella's contribution which is full of promise for the upcoming games. I really like the way he goes at the opposition without fear. For my money though the award (which seems strange, given the size of the loss), should go to James Ward-Prowse, for his non-stop action throughout the entire game. If we had two, or three more like him then there would surely be no problem.