IBO Reporter : Spot51
|Sky’s match commentators were Rob Hawthorne and Alan Smith (who usually sees us lose). Interestingly, the former was going on about the joy of full stadiums as the teams came out, yet I was looking at the Itchen Stand with both wings virtually empty. Turned out there had been a monstrous dropped bollock regarding tickets and the scanning thereof and loads of fans were still outside – they showed the huge queues during half-time. As the game progressed, the stadium did fill up and fair play to Saints for granting full refunds to all.
United wore a new 3rd kit, dark blue and yellow but it was Saints who kicked off towards the Archers End and were straight onto the front foot. An early foul gave us a free kick which Smith said was “too far out” for JWP. Of course, JWP shot, beat the wall but De Gea dived full length to turn it round the post, corner Saints. Smith then gave our captain the big build up about the quality of his delivery before he stuck the corner into the side netting.
Saints had clocked that Lindelhof would be uncomfortable with his replacement watching from the dugout. Armstrong Minor immediately closed him down, earning another corner. This was a better cross, but United got it away. Saints next attack on 5' saw Walcott play a low cross into the box, but it was too close to De Gea. United finally began to boss possession and enjoyed an extended period of pressure. It began when Perraud felled Fred, allowing Fernandes to swing over a cross behind our defence. Two United players reached for it, but the ball looped up off Maguire. The ball clipped the bar on the way down. Thankfully Salisu stopped it going over the line and Livramento was able to hack it away.
Greenwood was deployed on the right this week with Martial up front but it was the young Englishman who next had a pot at goal, shooting wide. Apparently JWP and Luke Shaw are great mates since their academy years, but that didn’t stop the one that stayed upending the one that left for another United FK. Alarmingly (given the number of free licks we were conceding) they all seemed to find away players in our box. This one reached Pogba but his effort was blocked by Salisu again. McC got a firm fist on the resulting corner, but another foul, this time by Alfa on Pogba, saw us defending another Shaw free kick. Pogba got to this one as well. Fortunately he headed it over.
Livramento was having another good game. On 15' he intercepted Fred’s pass towards Pogba, before Martial ran offside trying to get to Shaw’s forward pass. Then Djenepo conceded a corner, but again McC came for it and punched it away. Moments later, the Malian tangled with Greenwood, leaving the United man on the floor clutching his chin. Replays showed he’d been caught by an elbow as Djenepo turned away. It was clearly accidental, but fearing a head injury, the ref stopped play. The pressure our defence had been under was demonstrated by Stephens’ anger at this, just as we had won the ball back. Later in the game we heard he’d been booked for “saying something” to the ref and it was probably this incident.
Saints had seemed to weather the storm and on 28' Djenepo found Armstrong on the edge of the box and he fired over. Then Djenepo tried to bundle his way into the box, but was halted by United bodies. The game was now being played in United’s half with Stephens now alongside Romeu. The ball was worked to JWP who laid it into the path of Tino on the right. United briefly won possession, but when Fred sought Fernandes, Stephens stepped in and took the ball. The Portuguese went over like he’d been pole-axed, but the ref applied the newly reinstated “get stuck in” rule, so Stephens found Djenepo. His ball was backheeled by Armstrong to Adams. The “Scot” took one touch before striking it with his swinger. To his great fortune, Fred stuck out his boot and deflected the ball an inch or two inside the near post. They must’ve thought Ché’s shot was going wide, as the goal was chalked up as Fred (OG) - the important thing was, Saints were 1-0 up!
Fernandes’ hissy fit got him booked, yet several pundits and “Big Klubz” managers have since said he was fouled. What a bunch of Pansies! Both Ralph and Roy Keane were quite happy with Jack’s tackle. Fernandes was not at it for several minutes after, as his normally decent passing was replaced by overhitting the ball into touch. Greenwood was still looking lively on the right. On 34' he sent a long cross goalward and show-off McC came and caught this one. It was Saints now enjoying most possession and both Armstrong and Djenepo were looking decent down our left. On 38' Perraud won a corner on that side. United cleared JWP’s kick and quickly countered, Greenwood shooting wide at the other end.
United then won another corner as Djenepo tackled back. Fernandes sent in the cross and this time Romeu got it away and young Tino was off down the right with blue shirts trailing in his wake. Sadly, his cross evaded Armstrong. When United forced Stephens into an error, Perraud was quick to bring down Greenwood. Before this, all United’s free kicks had been out wide but this, as Smudger informed us, was prime shooting position just outside the ”D”. McC spent time organising his wall and Perraud was obliged to lie behind it. This allowed the wall to jump, which they did and, deflected Fernandes’ shot for a corner. Shaw took this and found Matic. His downward header was well saved by McC with Pogba following in. Two added minutes followed, but Saints maintained their lead 'till half time. Still 1-0 to the Good Guys!
During the break Sky showed fans queuing at all the Itchen turnstiles and from the box office along Britannia Road. I hoped they were not live pictures as there were thousands out there. Hopefully they all got in eventually.
OGS sent the same XI out for the 2nd half, but Ralph made a change. Walcott had been fairly anonymous in the first half and the commentators speculated he may be injured. Whatever, Ralph did make a tactical change, plonking Bednarek between Stephens and Salisu in what was, initially, a back 5. He soon relented with Stephens going to right back allowing Tino to play right midfield and keep Shaw honest.
Salisu blocked another Pogba shot early on, earning United another corner which Saints were able to clear. Perraud took a quick throw down the left where Armstrong broke forward. His low cross was fielded by De Gea at Adams’ feet. Djenepo saw yellow for a rugby tackle on Fred, but Saints were still doing most attacking. Perraud got down our left before finding Adams. He played a square ball to Tino who stuck his shot over. Djenepo needed the medics on, but was able to continue as United got down their right. The initial cross was too long, but Pogba collected it and drove into our box. He worked the ball to Fernandes with our defenders standing like statues. Pogba reached for the return and toed it into the path of Greenwood. The youngster hit a low shot through the bodies and McC must’ve seen it late. He was already down and the ball bounced off his arse on the way in. 1-1 Boo!
The Sky bods were convinced the tide was turning and Saints would crumble, but we stood up well to the coming onslaught. Martial won a corner off Stephens, but it was Jack’s head on the end of Shaw’s cross. Tino got down the right wing, but miscued his cross into touch. On 58' Jadon Sancho replaced Martial, with Greenwood moving up front. Pogba went close when he got past Stephens, but his shot was just wide. Adams had the medics on at the hour mark, but he too was able to play on. He and Armstrong got forward, but when Maguire went over he was awarded a free kick. A quick break saw Sancho feed Fred, whose chipped cross was headed over by Greenwood. Then Wan Bissaka was able to find Fernandes, whose header had McC sprawling but he hung onto the ball.
United continued to search for a winner and on 68' Djenepo brought down Fernandes. Diallo was sent to warm up as Fernandes swung the ball across. Romeu headed the ball away, with Greenwood attempting an ambitious volley of the dropping ball – it skewed horribly wide! Diallo was soon on for Djenepo, who was in danger of another yellow and he immediately stiffened our midfield.
Saints gradually began to see more of the ball and might have regained the lead on 74'. JWP took the ball from United and fed Adams, he squared it for Armstrong, who went 1-on-1 with De Gea. He went for the keeper’s left, but not close enough to the post, enabling De Gea to get a glove on it and send it for a corner. Salisu immediately won another corner and this time JWP found Adams at the near post. He too might have scored, but only knocked it towards the far post, where United were able to smuggle it away. United then withdrew Fred, sending on McTominey. Maguire was carded after clattering into Adams within JWP range. Again our captain shot and this time De Gea punched it away.
Perraud had looked tired and Ralph replaced him with KWP on 79'. United were now being pushed back and when JWP won the ball off them again, his cross deflected for another corner. Sancho headed this one away, but Saints looked to be the more likely winners now. We were keeping the ball well and KWP was able to keep Sancho quiet on their right. On 86' Lingaard was on for Matic, but Armstrong forced a corner off Lindelhof. De Gea punched this away and, as Shaw was closed, he took a dive which the ref bought. Oh Dear! Sancho tried his luck down the left, but Stephen’s block took the sting off his cross allowing McC an easy catch.
In 5 added minutes, Adams skinned Fernandes, only to be felled by Pogba who was booked. Smith nominated Tino as Sky MoM and we were then informed of Jack’s (earlier) booking. Even Pogba looked tired near the end – his normally reliable diagonal sailed out for a goal kick. With United attacking the ref decided to play another minute, but the impressive Salisu won and carried the ball forward. When the whistle sounded, United had indeed equalled Arsenal Invincibles’ unbeaten away record, but Saints had got their first point of the campaign.
Initially I was slightly disappointed. However, before the game I was expecting we’d get stuffed, so this was probably a “Good Point” as United won’t drop many points home, or away this season. Yes, I’m pleased enough with that.
Man of the Match
We had several good performances, both from Ralph’s surprise starting XI and those who came off the bench. However, to win this point the defence needed to do well and, whilst they were not perfect, they generally did. The man most often in the right place at the right time was Mo Salisu who gets better each time I watch him. He is my first Star of this season.