IBO Reporter : channonite
|With the rather unusual sight of a handful of fans in the stadium, the game kicked off at 8pm on a chilly Tuesday evening in mid-November. As a Tier 2 area, Brighton were allowed just two thousand fans in The Amex and that didn't include any away fans at all. Still it was good to see a ground with some sort of atmosphere, after months of no fans at all being allowed into matches.
We were then treated to the unusual sight of Saints being the team under pressure and McCarthy was having to save from Danny Welbeck after March had gone steaming down the touchline on Saints right.
Saints just couldn't retain possession, this was definitely a case of the presser being pressed. Eventually, the pressure told and they made a mistake. For what seemed the umpteenth time in the opening twenty-five minutes, the ball came fizzing into Saints penalty area and for some reason James Ward-Prowse had his right hand high in the air, as he battled with Welbeck. I think we all knew that it was a penalty before the referee, David Coote pointed at the spot. Pascal Groß made no mistake, sending McCarthy the wrong way to make it 1-0 to Brighton.
Bit by bit, Saints clawed their way back into the game and just before halftime there was a lovely bit of play with Armstrong, wide on the right to Walker-Peters, playing it short to Ward-Prowse, who sent a long through ball to Bertrand on the left. Bertie sent a teasing cross into the box, which Walcott just failed to make contact with, but there was Armstrong again to pick up and get a corner off one of the Brighton defenders. From the corner, Ward-Prowse sent in an out-swinging cross, right onto Vestergaard's head and the big man made no mistake and it was 1-1. Right on the stroke of halftime.
Somehow, Saints had arrived at the break even, in spite of having been under the cosh for the vast majority of the first half. Now, could they get the upper hand in the second half?
Coming out for the second half, Danny Ings replaced Djenepo, who had been booked early on and had come perilously close to being booked for the second time.
Any thought that it would be different in this half had to be put on hold, as Brighton came swarming forward on the counter, making use of the space that Saints often leave at the back when attacking. Edge of the seat stuff.
It wasn't all the home side though, as Saints had their moments and in one of those, Walcott sent a curling 25 yard shot just wide of the far post. We looked far more dangerous when attacking than Brighton and Armstrong was really key to how we opened them up, with Ings connecting with one pass, only to head straight at Ryan, the Australian keeper.
Just short of the 70th minute Redmond replaced Walcott, who was clearly tiring. He and Danny Ings then combined with some impressive ball juggling skills inside the penalty area, only for Redmond to shoot miles over the bar.
Then came the really contentious moment. Vestergaard sent a long looping pass to Walker-Peters, who advanced towards the penalty area, March tackling the Saints player and sending him sprawling in the area. The referee signalled a free kick right on the edge of the area, but when the incident went to VAR, it seemed to take an age to reach a conclusion and eventually the decision was changed to a penalty. The view seemed to be that although there had been initial contact outside the box, there had been a secondary foul inside. Brighton players were incensed and protested long and hard. Meanwhile the designated penalty taker JWP, had given the ball to Danny Ings and the Saints No.9 stood quietly waiting for the chance to score. Eventually Mr Coote blew the whistle and Danny made no mistake, fair hammering his shot the opposite side from the diving Ryan. 1-2 to Saints. The two thousand fans in the stadium were not impressed.
There were ten minutes of normal time left and Brighton proceeded to throw everything at Saints, looking for the equaliser. Both Maupay and Trossard had chances, but the away side looked in control and were far more solid at the back than they had been in the first half. Eventually they just ran out of time and Mr Coote blew the final whistle to confirm a decent win for Saints, after a couple of unconvincing games.
Man of the Match
There were some good performances, particularly in the second half, when Danny Ings seems to transform the team, but for me, literally head and shoulders above his team-mates was Jannick Vestergaard who had a monster of a game again and scored again. He is absolutely transformed from the lumbering player that always seemed to look like an accident waiting to happen. Now he is one of the most influential player on the pitch, equally as good with the ball at his feet as in the air and his accurate long range passes quickly turn defence into attack.