Saints Get Lucky At Villa
Sat 12thJan 3pm
Two teams guilty of letting in too many goals would have had people expecting to see a few in this match. With a total of 27 goal attempts it is perhaps a surprise that game game was won by a penalty.
In an open start to the game the first chance fell to the Villa striker Christian Benteke but he sends his shot narrowly wide. Then Benteke goes down looking for a free kick but referee Mark Halsey waves play on.
With Southampton showing a confidence on the ball a great chance was created by Rickie Lambert who fed Jay Rodriguez with a superb through ball but Rodriguez could only shoot tamely straight at Brad Guzan.
The game was being played with chances at both ends. Mark Halsey angered the Saints when Gaston Ramirez is felled with a high tackle by Stevens, and when a flailing from Benteke arm catches Maya Yoshida with nothing being given.
The game was decided by the referee who gave Saints a penalty for a foul on Rodriguez by Stevens. Though we all jumped up screaming for the penalty it looks as though the penalty was decidedly dubious.
Rickie Lambert duly stepped up and scored sending Guzan the wrong way as he kept his 100% penalty kicks success rate average going. 0-1 to Saints.
The first half ended with Saints again squandering a chance to score and Villa looking a shade disheartened.
The second half though saw Villa remove Brett Holman with Barry Bannan replacing him. This change seemed to lift the Villa team and they began to push Saints back as they searched for an equalizer.
Four minutes into the half Andreas Weimann tests Artur Boruc with a left-foot shot, but the keeper fumbles the ball to safety. Then Saints break and Rodriguez is halted by an absolutely brilliant last ditch tackle when he looked in on goal.
With Villa pressing more and more Artur comes to the rescue with a brilliant reflex save from Benteke. Now with the Saints defence under ever increasing pressure the chances for Saints were few and far between.
Barry Bannan was now becoming more influential for Villa and Boruc again was brought into the action as he helps keep the hosts at bay. Rodriguez did make another break through but Villa cleared to safety and regained the upper hand.
A second Villa change sees Charles N'Zogbia being replaced by local hero Gabby Agbonlahor. Villa see Benteke just fail to reach a cross as the pressure mounts Saints are now limited to occasional counter attacks and one of these comes so close to stretching the lead with Jason Puncheon hitting the post.
As the final fifteen minutes is reached Puncheon has a shot deflected. Then Gaston Ramirez is taken off with Danny Fox taking his place. Benteke then sees an effort sail just wide. Before Luke Shaw is injured and carried of on a stretcher. Saints bring on Steve de Ridder in his place.
Another round of substitutions starts with Villa bringing on Jordan Bowery for Ashley Westwood in midfield. Moments later former Villa man Steven Davis replaces Jason Puncheon, and he gets a nice round of applause from both sets of supporters.
The final stages see Villa pounding at the Saints defence and again they come close.Christian Benteke is felled and Bannan's free-kick is headed across goal by the Belgian, but Artur Boruc claims the ball in front of a number of players in claret and blue.
Then what might be serious for the Saints occured with Luke Shaw getting injured as he wins a tackle. Shaw ends up being stretchered off with Villa fans appearing to boo him. Steve de Ridder is brought on with Danny Fox moving back as cover for Shaw.
Villa upped the pressure even more and Benteke again forced a good save from Boruc in the Saints goal.Then a Barry Bannan corner is headed against the woodwork by defender Nathan Baker. Jordan Bowery then has a shot deflected to safety.
Then came the miss of the day when Gabby Agbonlahor is put clear. Artur Boruc makes a good save with the rebound falling to Christian Benteke who fails to hit the target.
We then see two players booked as the game peters out. Boruc for time wasting and then Weimann finds himself in Mark Halsey's book for saying a bit too much.
The referee blows to bring the game to an end and Saints have managed to hold on to their lead.
'There's no contact, for me, Jay has moved his leg out of the way - and it's just as well as there would have been contact.