Barclays Premier League
St.Mary's - Saturday 8th December 2012
- Puncheon 61'
Revenge is sweet.
After the smash and grab of last season, where at the corresponding fixture Saints managed to lose 1-3 to Reading, in spite of more than 70% possession, winning 1-0 this time was especially satisfying.
It was also a wonderful, high quality goal that won it, involving Rickie Lambert, Nathaniel Clyne and finally the Man of the Match, Jason Puncheon who struck a sublime shot past the despairing dive of the Reading goalkeeper, Federici.
Earlier this season a solitary goal would have been nowhere near enough to win a game, as Saints conceded 18 goals in the first six matches, an average of three per game. In the last six games they have only conceded four goals, including two clean sheets, which is a heck of a turnaround.
First surprise on arrival at St.Mary's was to find no sign at all of Gazzaniga on the team sheet. It turns out that he had a shoulder injury and Kelvin Davis was going to be in goal. He was warming up before the match with Boruc and the young American goalie, Cropper. Boruc looked to have lost a considerable amount of weight since his earlier appearances.
The other change was perhaps less of a surprise, in that Gastón Ramírez was on the bench, after his compassionate leave to Uruguay during the week. Taking his place was Rodriguez in what was clearly going to be a reversion to 4-4-2.
Right from the first kick of the game it was clear that Reading's gameplan was exactly the same as last time. Soak up the pressure and try to hit Saints on the break. Saints were never going to fall for that again. In truth, apart from one point where the ball hit the Saints crossbar, Davis was hardly troubled in goal. In the first half alone Federici tipped away a goal bound Rickie Lambert shot and had to pick the ball out of the net when Puncheon headed in, only to see the ref rule the goal out for an offence that no-one but he saw. He also had a couple of other alarms to deal with.
The only thing Reading really offered was Roberts thwarted attempts to bully first Yoshida and then Shaw. Neither gave way to his rough house tactics and he eventually decided to take his frustrations out on the linesman on the Kingsland side. All the time he kept chipping away at the referee, who rather surprisingly failed to book anyone on either side for the whole match.
Five minutes before half time Lallana went down after a seemingly innocuous challenge close to the touchline and stayed down. The other Saints players were clearly concerned and eventually he went off. To be replaced by the still jet-lagged Ramírez.
Half-time arrived which gave Adkins time to get the team sorted out and prepared for the second half.
If we were expecting anything different from either side then we were disappointed. Saints continued to press and Reading continued to soak up the pressure and look to hit on the break.
The almost inevitable breakthrough came on 61 minutes, when Lambert took the ball in the middle and threaded it out wide on the right to Clyne. In the meantime Puncheon had started a diagonal run into the box and Clyne threaded the ball through to him. Puncheon evaded a couple of tackles and that was it 1-0.
The rest of the match saw the ball going to and fro, with little end result. Just before the 80 minute mark Rodriguez, who had had a decent game, without really threatening, went off to be replaced by Guly. Yet again some intellectually challenged people saw fit to boo him, but the laugh was on them as he didn't put a foot wrong and very nearly scored with a great curling shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Saints gave a good demonstration of how to close out a match by retaining possession and although Le Fondre got himself into a position to score at one point, he could do nothing more than shank the ball a considerable distance wide of the Saints goal. Summed their day up really.
So, Saints were good value for their 1-0 win and Reading could have not complained if the final scoreline had been two, or three nil. Saints now have a bit of a break, as they should have been playing Chelsea next weekend, but they are playing in the FIFA club world cup competition. Saints next game is not until the 22nd December at home to Sunderland. Hopefully Lallana will have recovered from his injury by then.
20 Lallana (Ramirez - 40')
09 Rodriguez (Guly - 78')
08 S Davis
15 Morrison (Pearce - 65' )
16 Tabb (Hunt - 69' )
19 Robson-Kanu (McCleary - 77' )
09 Le Fondre
- Southampton 54%
- Reading 46%
- Southampton 18
- Reading 6
- Southampton 9
- Reading 2
- Southampton 7
- Reading 4
- Southampton 11
- Reading 10