IBO Reporter : channonite
|I was so confident coming into this match, normally I won't make a score prediction, but in the morning I told some friends that it would be 3-0 to Saints. I won't make that mistake again...
As the match got under way it seemed as though Saints were just starting slowly. Brighton on the other hand were obviously up for it and scrapping for everything.
In spite of the constant pressure from Brighton, Saints had a chance early on, when Bertrand all on his own on the wing sent in an accurate pass to Adams. Ché had dropped back from his marker which gave him room to head at goal, but unfortunately it was wide. Good intelligent play from the Saints striker.
Not only were Brighton seemingly a yard quicker, but Lallana was very much orchestrating their play from the middle, looking like the player he used to be. In their next attack, Lallana, Maupay and Trossard were all involved in moving the ball quickly into the danger areas and Saints only cleared their lines with some pretty desperate defending. Not very reassuring.
Once again Saints managed to fashion an opening, through Adams, Walker-Peters and finally Armstrong, whose shot was comfortably saved by Sánchez. At least the shot was on target.
Again Brighton moved forward with crisp, sharp passing between several players and the move ended with Maupay forcing a save from Forster, who pushed the ball away for a corner. At this stage, some 15 minutes into the game, Brighton were easily the better side and well on top.
From the resulting corner, accurately taken by Groẞ, Dunk who was some way out, rose almost unchallenged and sent a powerful header beyond the diving Forster, into the far corner of the net. 0-1 with just over a quarter of an hour gone and you have to say that it had been coming. So much for my 3-0 prediction.
At this point Saints seemed to wake up and moved the ball around with more purpose. They won a corner, taken by Ward-Prowse which was cleared as far as Minamino, whose shot was parried as far as Bertrand. He looked up and saw Adams had made room for himself and crossed. Adams swivelled and volleyed home from close range. 1-1 and not even half an hour played.
That was the response we were looking for, now they had to press on in the same style. Saints kept the pressure up, but when they got through, Sánchez looked comfortable in goal. What was noticeable though was Adams intelligent running, always making space for himself.
Again Saints defence was made to look shaky, when Brighton should have scored again. The ball was played quickly out of defence and moved into an area where there were several blue shirts and few red. It ended with a powerful shot from Groẞ that Forster did well to deflect wide with an outstretched leg.
That was the final meaningful action of the half and half-time arrived with the score level at 1-1. Up until Brighton scored, the away side were well on top and it was only after going behind that Saints showed an urgency at all. After Saints scored it was Brighton who stepped up their game though. Still, all square so far.
The second half started with Brighton making a switch due to Burn sustaining a possible hamstring injury towards the end of the first half. He was replaced by Zeqiri, which necessitated a tactical change.
The second half started well for Saints with then looking positive going forward. Armstrong, Ward-Prowse, Minamino and Bertrand linked up well together moving at pace and culminating in a powerful shot from the Saints captain that was well saved by Sánchez.
Then came the move you always feared was coming and Lallana was central to it. It began when Welbeck was brought down by Ward-Prowse in the middle of the Saints half and conceded a free kick. It was taken quickly and was worked around between several players, yet seemed to be going nowhere in particular, until it reached Lallana. Quickly he found Welbeck, who slid it through to Trossard, who timed his run perfectly to get in front of the defenders to be one on one with Forster. The Brighton man made no mistake, lifting his shot above the diving Forster to make it 1-2.
Saints had another chance, when Tella on one of his direct runs towards goal finished with him being ambushed by two defenders right on the edge of the penalty area. There were some appeals for the penalty, but replays clearly showed it to be outside the area. A free kick though, but a difficult one, being so close. Ward-Prowse stepped up, but his shot was deflected wide for a corner which came to nothing.
For most of this half Saints looked very pedestrian, only occasionally bursting into life, yet for the most part looking for all the world as if they were defending a 3-0 lead, rather than being 2-1 down. Suddenly Saints seemed to grasp the urgency of the situation and laid siege to the Brighton goal and the away sides defending became somewhat desperate. There was a moment of hope when Walker-Peters was upended in the penalty area, but even after a VAR review nothing was given.
The game concluded, still being played flat out, but this was a big, big win for Brighton and a huge loss for Saints. I have to say that I felt worse than after some of the other big losses this season, including the Manchester United game, as with those there were other mitigating factors, but this was practically a full strength side and yet they simply didn't look convincing at any stage of the game.
Man of the Match
Although Adams scored a well taken goal, this was just about the only good thing to come from a Saints player in this match, so I am going to break with convention and instead give the MoM to an opposition player, who ran the game from the middle and just rolled back the years to the time he used to turn out in Saints colours - Adam Lallana.