Barclays Premier League
St.Mary's - Saturday 22nd December 2012
- Fletcher 42'
This was a dreadful game. It was a strange atmosphere with little to get excited about, until the last few minutes when Saints threw everything at Sunderland in a desperate attempt to save the game.
Nigel Adkins had a problem to address before the match in deciding firstly who would take Lallana's place on the left wing, who was still out with the injury he sustained against Reading. His second problem was to do with what formation to use. When I saw the team sheet I was happy to see that Ramírez was back in the starting line-up and Mayuka was making an overdue appearance as a starter.
My optimism was dashed as the players lined up prior to the kick off, when I saw that Ramírez was standing on the left wing and Mayuka was alongside Lambert in the middle. It was going to be 442.
For most of the first half Saints looked assured and were pulling the strings in midfield with Fonte and Yoshida dealing with Fletcher. Though for all Saints skillfull approach play, Mignolet in the Sunderland goal was hardly troubled.
Then, almost completely against the run of play, Sunderland drove down their left wing and a mis-hit shot somehow landed at the feet of a completely unmarked Fletcher to the right of the penalty area. He was not going to miss a chance like this and in a flash it was 0-1.
Shortly after Mayuka had a reasonable shout for a penalty turned down, but Saints were clearly deflated after the goal, as were the Saints fans.
t wasn't until the introduction of Steve De Ridder (on for Mayuka) early in the second half that things started to pick up, but as is usual with Shteeeve, he flattered to deceive.
Shortly afterwards Schneiderlin was replaced by Steven Davis, but without any noticeable difference. The final change for the last ten minutes was Guly for Puncheon and that did make a difference. Suddenly Saints appeared to have a cutting edge again. It became a bit like the Alamo in and around the Sunderland penalty area as they fought to keep Saints out. Right at the death Saints won a corner and even Kelvin came up for it, but to no avail.
This was a game lost by tactics. Sunderland came for a point and almost seemed surprised to leave with all three. There is no doubt that Lallana out is a big loss, but Saints ought to have enough strength to deal with that. Playing 442 is not really an option against Premier League sides. In the Championship it is a viable option and if we continue to play it in the Premier League, that is probably where we will end up.
After the match Nigel Adkins said: "Today seemed to be a game that was uncharacteristically flat. We gave Sunderland something that they could hang on to and they did that very well.
We moved the ball about very well, but we did not get the breakthrough and the Sunderland goal changed the complexion of the game.
The players have put the effort in but it was not to be. We have to put this one to bed and get ready for Fulham."
Adkins also seemed very coy about the condition of Adam Lallana and said that he would not recover from a knee injury in time to play against Fulham on Boxing Day. In spite of everything that has been said by the club, I just can't shake the feeling that Adam's injury is a lot more serious than they are letting on.
04 Schneiderlin (S Davis - 59' )
42 Puncheon (Guly - 80' )
24 Mayuka (De Ridder - 55' )
08 S Davis
33 De Ridder
07 Larsson Booked (Bardsley - 70' Booked )
21 Johnson Booked (Campbell - 74' )
28 Sessegnon (Vaughan - 89' )
- Southampton 48%
- Sunderland 52%
- Southampton 13
- Sunderland 10
- Southampton 7
- Sunderland 6
- Southampton 8
- Sunderland 5
- Southampton 11
- Sunderland 15