IBO Reporter : channonite
|This was James Ward-Prowse's 100th straight game for Saints and a measure of how important he is to the club. The game started in a raucous atmosphere, as there had been some controversy in the local press and media about the fans needing to get more involved.
Saints were on the front foot from the off and soon won a free kick taken by JWP, which eluded everyone except Ederson in the City goal and it almost caught him by surprise as well. He did well to palm it over the bar. The resulting corner unfortunately came to nothing.
I had expected City to overrun Saints, especially with the added extra of a very loud, packed stadium, but it didn't seem to be working out like that in the opening exchanges.
City did have one moment in the first half hour, where I thought for an instant they were bound to score, when Stirling played Gündogan through, but Livramento and McCarthy were quick to react and the danger was snuffed out.
Just after this Jack Stephens went down after a challenge and was clearly in a lot of pain. After a brief delay he came off in the 37th minute, to be replaced by Salisu. This was a shame for the player, as he has been something of a revelation this season, being both an effective defender and a leader in the defence.
Saints defending was excellent and the home crowd were getting restless at their teams failure to break down the opposition.
As we got nearer to the break, I was getting nervous as some of the defending looked very much 'last ditch', but it worked and the game remained goalless.
The second half began with no changes of personnel on either side and City were right back where they left off, pummelling the Saints defence, but if anything, the away side were looking more comfortable than they were in the first half. Not only that, but Saints started to put their offensive game together and were winning the ball in midfield, which in turn put the home side's defence under pressure.
After one spell, where Saints won the ball, lost it and then immediately won it back again, Adams was able to get a shot away, which narrowly went wide of the far post. This wasn't in the script!
Then came the moment which defined the game and which shamed the refereeing team. After some really good approach work Adam Armstrong went barrelling into the area, to be brought down by Walker. Initially the referee, Jon Moss (Yes, him again!) signalled a penalty and also a red card to Walker. Then Moss went across to the monitor to review the incident, after a discussion with Martin Atkinson on VAR. Now, IMHO Moss was right about the penalty, as it was about as nailed on as a penalty could be, but he was wrong about the red card. It should have been a yellow and I am convinced that was what Atkinson had said to him. Instead, after reviewing the incident, he rescinded BOTH decisions. Incredible! Ridiculous! To say Southampton were wronged is an understatement. Big club bias strikes again...
Ralph then decided on a change as a reaction to City bring on De Bruyne and Mahrez, for Fernandinho and Gabriel Jesus. He made just the one change initially and replaced Ché Adams with Armando Broja, as we approached the last half hour.
Saints were very much in the ascendancy now and key to this was Oriol Romeu, who seemed to be all over the pitch and was driving his team forward. Adam Armstrong had a shot on target saved and I realised that although Saints had only had two shots on target at this late stage of the game, City had not had a single shot on target all game. And they should have been a goal down by now.
Saints final sub was replacing the excellent Livramento with Perraud and it seemed that Walker-Peters was switched to the right, while the Frenchman went to left back.
Now City were throwing absolutely everything at Saints and yet McCarthy was looking completely unflustered and relaxed in goal. The defending was exceptional.
Then, almost at the death, Sterling had the ball in the net, but was offside, which was confirmed by VAR. And then the final whistle went and I could breathe again...
An astonishing performance from Southampton and City were limited to just that one shot on target all game. A very hard one point, but at the cost of possibly a long term injury to Stephens, which would leave Ralph with a problem with a lack of cover in the central defensive positions.
Man of the Match
No doubt in my mind who was the star of this performance, on a day of exceptional performances. Oriol Romeu was absolutely outstanding today, simply gliding around, looking as though he had all the time in the world, but pulling all the strings of the players around him.