The sunshine and comedy defending from both sides gave this entertaining game more than a touch of an end of season feel. In a nutshell, Naughton’s efforts at harakiri were matched by Clyne and Lovren before Sigurdsson’s low piledriver gave us the points at the death.
Southampton’s goals came directly from Naughton’s errors but in truth, in the first half anyway, they looked very capable of penetrating our high backline almost at will without any assistance. Their insistence on giving the lino plenty to do helped us out but the point blank save by Lloris from Lallana at 2-1 I believe is probably what stopped them running away with the game.
The away team didn’t have to be that good; the mixture of half-heartedness and incompetence provided by our back four was encouragement enough. That’s not to say that we didn’t carry a threat ourselves, Chadli, Eriksen and even Soldado were finding space and creating half chances. A lovely combination between the latter two very nearly gave us an equaliser just before the break. I mention it, as it was play at a level we’ve rarely seen this season.
Whatever was said at halftime, and one likes to think that Sherwood gathered his key people round several steaming cups of tea and a chalkboard whilst he explained the importance of protecting a back four seemingly more intent on creating a homage to the Jonestown Massacre than paying attention to the people in red in front of them, worked as post Soldado’s mugging of Lovren to set Eriksen up for the equaliser we were much the better side. We lost our way a bit after they bolstered their midfield but when Eriksen set up Siggy to shoot low and hard to the keeper’s right with the referee’s whistle approaching his lips, the exultant relief and joy (exhibited most prominently on the field by Soldado) was justified as we deserved the win.
For a side that has received so many plaudits this season I thought Southampton were underwhelming. They certainly had the opportunity to grasp the game by the scruff of the neck in the first half but instead, let us back into it. Shaw especially was nowhere the potential superstar we’re generally led to believe him to be. Lennon had a quiet game of course but that’s far from unusual. Lallana’s clearly got bags of skill but elsewhere they looked pedestrian and their lumbering centre halves gave Soldado the chance to have one of his more involved games for us; he won almost all the balls played into his feet and made good use of it, combining well with Eriksen and Chadli as I’ve said.
The clear lesson to be learnt from the game though is that we need to build the team around Eriksen. He stands apart in terms of technique and speed of thought. Feel free to accuse me of stating the bleedin’ obvious.
Tin hat time next weekend. It’ll be interesting to see how many of our defenders develop mysterious injuries this week. COYS.
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