A fine win and a deserved three points. The first 30 minutes or so was pretty even but after Kane and Alli scored the game’s only goals quickly after each other there was only one team in it.
The main architects of the result were Lloris, Dembélé and Alderweireld who were all outstanding. Add in Harry Kane, two shots, one goal, and that’s a spine of a team to feel very smug about. Walker and Vertonghen were also excellent whilst the running and combativeness of Alli and Lamela was key in making the second half so straightforward.
At 31,000 the St Mary’s stadium is half the proposed size of the monolith we were granted planning approval for this week. Like so many of the new grounds it’s pretty much characterless; the architects of the new WHL should be made to visit and told to design the opposite. The atmosphere in the ground was a good one though during the game but it was nothing compared to the bouncing boisterousness underneath the away end before kick off and at half time. If there’s a way of capturing that noise and enthusiasm into the new ‘kop’ end then everything should be done to make it happen.
The game in a medium sized nutshell
The opening exchanges were characterised by the standard high pressing we’re getting used to but it was Southampton who were the main protagonists with Jordie Classie in particular causing problems. He was the worst kind of pest, biting at the ankles of Dier and Walker and Vertonghen – like Lamela but without the fouling. The lightning quick Sadio Mané was presented with the best chance of the opening exchanges as a result of this harassment, his side-footed effort was beaten out by Hugo getting down quickly to his right.
We forced ourselves into the ascendancy mostly via the tactic of being prepared to take them on toe to toe. Dembélé was magnificent and hugely influential, he seemed to take any progress Southampton made through the middle as a personal affront. The play was becoming mostly condensed into the middle third until Alli very bravely won a challenge with a large Saint and forced the ball through to Kane. Harry hared towards goal, determinedly ran through a couple of defenders and side footed home. With “he’s one of our own” still filling the stadium Kyle Walker was put away on the break. He had time to pick out Alli all alone at the far post who took a touch before giving us a two goal and as it turned out decisive lead.
The second half was pretty eventless with both sides having only one clear chance, Tom Carroll having a good opportunity to put us three up before Lloris once more came to the rescue with another magnificent save from Ward-Prowse, this time down to his left.
Overall it was an excellent performance but one characterised more by determination and combativeness than free flowing passing, width and flair. The injured Clinton N’Jie could provide that from the bench if not before once he’s well and truly up to speed, no pun intended. He could do worse than sit and watch a video of Mané in action and aim to become a similar type of player. His pace and niggling made him a constant pain in the arse.
Flying with the Eagles
Norwich’s win at Old Trafford means that we have done what we thought we were going to do last week and rise in to the top four. Last week’s result was a real bugger though as there are plenty of teams on our tails. Palace and Man Utd are level (it’s hard to remember the last time goal difference counted so well in our favour) and Watford only one behind. We are nine points behind Leicester. Blimey.
Work to be done
Any team aiming to get into the top four should be aiming at an average of two points a game. With 29 from 17 we’re well behind that at the moment, thanks mostly to those 8 draws of course.
In form Norwich come to WHL on Boxing Day – cue a world class display by Sebastien Bassong – followed by in form Watford – cue a Pat Jennings like performance from Heurelho Gomes – a couple of days later.
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