Southampton v Fulham
27th February 2019
Oriol Romeu scored the first through a crowd of players
IBO Reporter : channonite
Having been away for both the Arsenal and Everton home wins this season, this was the first home Premier League win I had seen since the 2-1 victory against Bournemouth on the 28th April last year. A long time to wait.
Some things don't change though: Saints fans are a funny lot. At half time, when I was queuing for a drink there was nothing but moaning from the fans. FFS! We were 2-0 up and it could have been more, but no, Saints were not pressing enough, were too slow, the defence were rubbish, etc. I do wonder why some people bother turning up.
Anyway enough moaning, because we got the precious three points, scored more than a single goal and actually managed to keep a clean sheet. Hallelujah!
The big, but not unexpected news, was that Stephens was replaced by Yoshida. So, from the back it was Angus Gunn in goal again, a back three of Bednarek, Yoshida and Vestergaard. The two wing backs were Valery on the right and Bertrand returning on the left, with Targett dropping to the bench. Midfield was once again Ward-Prowse, Romeu and Højbjerg, with Redmond and Austin at the front.
Bearing in mind the importance of the game, it was not really surprising that the opening few minutes were cagy and error strewn. It wasn't until after about ten minutes that the first noteworthy thing happened, Saints waking up and a delightful through ball was played by Yan Valery, which found it's way through a forest of Fulham defenders via an outstretched boot to Charlie Austin right in front of the goal. He stood his ground and headed it into the empty net. Unfortunately the ref had blown for a foul, as the Fulham keeper, an unimpressive Rico, in trying to get to the ball had bounced off the stationary Austin. No goal.
Saints were starting to get in their stride, with Bertrand really impressing down the left flank, causing all sorts of problems for Fulham. It was from one of his crosses that, although missed by all the players in red and white, a Fulham player put it behind for a corner. Bertrand came across to take the corner and sent across an in swinger, which Rico could only punch out. The ball carried only as far as Romeu who, some 25 yards out, thumped the ball straight back into the Fulham goal. 1-0.
Happy as that made me, there was that feeling that Saints just do not do '1-0' and as my neighbour put it, 'we only need another two to get the draw'. Saints fans are soooo optimistic.
Soon after this there was another chance which fell to Højbjerg, but unfortunately his shot went just wide of the far post. It had started with a crunching tackle from James Ward-Prowse and was quickly passed between Austin and Redmond to the Dane. Nice incisive play from Saints.
The next few minutes saw Fulham craft at least three chances, the best of which fell to the big No9 Mitrovic, who clean through, really should have done better than to blast the ball over the net.
Then just when you thought there was a slight chance of an equaliser, lightening struck for the second time. With only about five minutes to half time Saints were pressing hard and drawing mistakes from the opposition players. Rico punted upfield and under pressure, Højbjerg headed to Austin at the second attempt, who slid the ball to the unmarked Redmond on the left. His curling shot was going to the bottom far corner, but Rico just managed to get a hand to it and push it out - straight to an onrushing Ward-Prowse, who smashed a shot past the still prostrate keeper. 2-0.
So, half-time and going well. You would think, but going down to get a drink and listening to all the moaning in the queues you would think that we were losing by at least four goals, instead of having scored two and kept a clean sheet. I despair.
The second half started with Fulham trying to up their game, but being pressed into mistakes by Saints. You just wondered if we would be able to keep going for the whole match, such was the intensity, even Charlie Austin was running his socks off and having a good game.
Eventually, 'Saints Standard Defending' reappeared again and Fulham were allowed to pass around the penalty area, with the move ending with Babel cracking a shot against the crossbar. Very close.
Around the 60 minute mark it was clear that Austin was shattered and he was duly replaced by Shane Long, who then did what he does best - run around annoying the defenders.
Shortly after, Claudio Ranieri made a double substitution, replacing probably their most effective player, Cairney with Vietto and McDonald with Sessegnon. This provoked cries of 'You don't know what you're doing' from the Fulham fans.
In truth, it didn't make much difference, as Fulham looked very much a beaten side, with Saints keeping possession to run the clock down and eventually the ref blew for full time and it was a richly deserved 3 points for Saints, although I am sure that the moaners I came across at half-time were still moaning.
Man of the Match
At last, I am going to actually have a 'Man of the Match' and although the whole team played well and there were outstanding performances from Bertrand, Valery, Højbjerg and Charlie Austin (Yes!), there is only one candidate for me - the born again Saint, James Ward-Prowse. He was everywhere, tackling, passing and scoring.
A quick thinking Ward-Prowse was first on a half clearance from the Fulham keeper
The defence looked a whole heap better for the return of Maya Yoshida
10 Austin (Long 64')
6 McDonald - Booked 62' (R Sessegnon 69')
10 Cairney (Vietto 69')
29 Zambo Anguissa
3 R Sessegnon
- Romeu 23'
- Ward-Prowse 40'
Referee: Anthony Taylor
- Southampton 41%
- Fulham 59%
- Southampton 14
- Fulham 14
Shots on Target
- Southampton 4
- Fulham 4
- Southampton 7
- Fulham 4
- Southampton 15
- Fulham 13