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Saints V Manchester City The Verdict
Sunday, 8th Dec 2013 10:51

There has been much talk about The Southampton Way in the media in recent weeks, but The Southampton Way has been in place for generations and against Manchester City it was displayed to great aplomb.

Southampton Football Club has been doing things in a way far different to most football clubs going back nearly six decades when Ted Bates took over as manager, he installed something into this football club that set it aside, one of those things was our tendency to close ranks, dig in deep and just as it seems we are at our lowest ebb with an impossible task ahead, face up to that adversity and triumph.

The mood before the visit of Manchester City was one of doom and gloom, surely Saints had no chance with so many players out injured and on the back of three straight defeats.

But that Spirit of Southampton rose to the fore, despite an early set back when City went ahead with a clinical finish by Aguero from a cross that really should have been blocked long before he reached them.

But if the floodgates were about to open, no one told the Saints players who dug in, yes rode their luck on a couple of occasions, but soon started to get on top of the visitors and having done that the crowd got behind them and made sure that Manchester City would not be the second team this week to leave with all three points.

This was a team effort, but the Saints equaliser was a solo goal and I would hazard a guess wont be bettered this season, indeed could well be a contender for the best goal ever scored at St Mary's.

Osvaldo received the ball way out on the left and there seemed no danger to the city goal, a few twists and turns later followed by an exsquisite curled shot into the far top corner of the goal and Osvaldo was well on his way to silencing his doubters, not that you could have heard their silence in the noise that greeted the equaliser.

This was a goal that wasn't just an equaliser but was a statement of intent from the Saints side that they could and indeed would match their illustrious opponents and would not be cowed by them.

This was very much a game of midfield battle though, both sides had plenty of shots, but in truth neither keeper had anything bar regulation stops to make, Paulo Gazzaniga was clearly nervous, he perhaps sensed that the crowd were wary of him, especially when he stayed on his line on a couple of occasions when he perhaps should have come off it, however it is better that he made those decisions and let his defenders deal with it than half come and flap, sometimes positivity is about making the right decision for your own game rather than doing what you think you should be doing, Gazzaniga's only truly dodgy moment came when as he came for a throughball he arrived on the edge of his penalty area a bit to soon and was forced to fly hack it away, it didn't look pretty but it was effective and from a goalkeeping point of view by getting through this game only conceding the one goal his confidence will be better for the next.

It was hard to pick a man of the match, Callum Chambers would be one contender, his defending and marauding up the right wing suggested that on Wednesday evening Pochettino made a mistake in bringing on Fonte at right back, however the manager didnt repeat that mistake twice and with Fonte being fit to play in the centre, he put the square pegs in square holes and we were all the better for it.

A second contender would be Jack Cork, he put in an immense performance that suggests that the loss of Wanyama will not be as big a blow as some would have it, yes his ability to win the ball might not be as good as Wanyama, but he makes up for that with far more mobility around the pitch as well as far better control with the ball and ability to pass it quickly and effectively.

Likewise his central partner Steven Davis, another great performance from Davis who like Cork never stopped from his first moment on the pitch to his last, players like Cork & Davis are often overlooked due to the fact that they are as Lawrie McMenemy often used to say the "Hod Carriers" of the team, but this result was built on the workrate of our hod carriers with the chances for as McMenemy would also say "The Violinists" a little bit less than usual.

Sadly though this is probably the game were its quite clear that the manager is going to play Osvaldo before Rickie Lambert and for the first time in his Saints career SRL finds himself not an automatic choice, I predicted this at the start of the season and although Pochettino took a long time to get off the fence and make the decision, using one or the other of Lambert or Osvaldo is far better for the shape of the team.

This can be used in our favour, it gives us attacking options off of the bench and it doesnt mean that every game needs to be one or the other, there will b some games that we will need to use both on the pitch at the same time as well as others where perhaps Rickie will be preferred ahead of Osvaldo for tactical reasons, but with Osvaldo preferred in two out of the last three games since returning from injury on top of his best game for the club, I think the manager has made his decision at least for the time being.

This game was a draw, but it felt like a win such was the significance of the result, on internet message boards this has been a season of extremes, a couple of weeks ago some were proclaiming that Saints could win the Premier League, before this game those self same people were saying Saints were finished without Boruc ( interestingly many bemoaning the loss of Boruc had also been demanding he be replaced due to the error at Arsenal) and certain other players, the managers lack of spreading the game time around the squad had made many forget just how good the likes of Jack Cork actually are not to mention Callum Chambers, yes our squad isnt quite what it should be due to too many high cost signings that haven't worked out, but the core of it is still good.

Saints now need to build on this result, they need to go out and get something at Newcastle, there are some tough games coming up, we need to be looking at stabilising our position first rather than talking about Champions League places, if we can come through December still reasonably placed, then we can come back stronger in January as the injury list clears and perhaps we make a key signing or two.

Photo: Action Images

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GeordieSaint added 12:04 - Dec 8
Fantastic, that is possibly the most upbeat article I have ever read on here. I only saw the highlights on MOTD but what a goal. My favourite bit was the tackle put in by Lovren that started the move. He is without doubt one of the best central defenders in the league, I might go crazy and say the planet!!!

thegeneral added 12:08 - Dec 8
It was a brilliant game of football, every player in a red shirt gave 110%. I'd like to mention Lovren as well, the commentary i was listening to said he's not just a good defender, he's a good footballer and i thought that summed him up very well. I thought Jack Cork took a while to get the pace of the game and once he did he showed what a valuable player he is to the club. His passing is so much more threatening than Wanyama's and Callum Chambers had an absolute blinder. Luke Shaw made more forward runs as well and we are so much more threatening when he does this, he put some superb crosses in.
One thing i did notice was Ramirez jocked JWP off a late free kick, that was stupid as his dead ball delivery is as good as anyone in the league and it cost us a good late chance.

chalks82 added 12:36 - Dec 8
Good article Nick, I don't think I've ever celebrated a goal as much as Osvaldo's. It wasn't just the strike, it was the fact it was against Man City, leaving the best prem defender on his arse, we were one down and getting into the game, and weeks of wanting Osvaldo to do well that made it so great.
Although it was only 1-1 it felt like a win and I felt so proud of the whole team, Chambers coming in and playing so well, Shaw finally taking on a fullback, Cork battling hard with Yaya Toure and winning the battle, and Davis being absolutely everywhere.
PS- It was Fonte who made the tackle to start the move

saintstowin added 12:39 - Dec 8
All the positivity is well earned, it was a great effort with skill and determination. I'm sure for lots of us the fact that all of the fringe players fitted in brilliantly is possibly the best thing about the game. I was possibly most worried about Clyne's absence but what a player Chambers looks, he played so well. Great atmosphere too!
I'd echo the individual brilliance of Osvaldo's goal but like Geordie Saint said it all started in our box. until I watched it again on MOTD (and despite the praise from pundits I wished they'd highlighted the actual goal) i'd forgotten the tackle led to the move from one end to the other with 5 or 6 involved. a great team goal, a great individual goal!

Heisenberg added 12:56 - Dec 8
Agree with all that's been said. The one thing that stood out for me was seeing Jack Cork back. I can't remember him playing as well as that. Without Wanyama and Sniederlin he had to lead and boy did he do that. To boss Yaya Toure is no mean feat.

slynch added 13:16 - Dec 8
STNick: I agree with every observation you have made and every word you have written.

Bulgarian added 13:18 - Dec 8
Fantastic team effort.
If only we can show the same desire when playing "lesser" opposition, that would decide our status as a top team.
3 things should be taken from this game:
It was a big relief to see more efforts on goal, especially long range ones. Definitely JWP should be encouraged to try even more long distance shots.
Cork showed great character, I think we need him as an example of hard working loyal player who may stay out of the spotlights but still produce impeccable shifts.
As much as I like Clyne, Stephens is my RB hero - no fear of the opposition, great workrate and intelligent forward runs. I fancy real competition for this position rather than seeing Stephens as Clyne's deputy. IMO the boy has even more potential than NC, it's the perfect time to have them both at the Club right now.

sidsaint added 13:43 - Dec 8
Great report. So proud to be a Saint yesterday.

sidsaint added 13:53 - Dec 8
Great report. So proud to be a Saint yesterday.

sidsaint added 13:53 - Dec 8
Great report. So proud to be a Saint yesterday.

sidsaint added 13:53 - Dec 8
Great report. So proud to be a Saint yesterday.

legod7 added 14:19 - Dec 8
Nick a very positive report from you. One slight disagreement was that I have seen better goals at St Mary's than the one scored by Osvaldo. What about Lallana's this season against Hull City.

mayfairsaint1 added 15:09 - Dec 8
In many ways this was the best performance of the season for me (even if we didn't get 3 points). Many of us feared the worst. How could we avoid defeat having lost at home to a poor Villa side 3 days earlier? How could we cope with yet more injuries to key players? How were we going to get the better of a rampant city?
You've got to give credit not only to the likes of Cork, Davis, Shaw, Lallana, Chambers, Lovren and the whole team but also to the manager and his team.
On Thursday MP said the most important thing was to stay relaxed He kept his cool and so did his team. Brilliant. Man. City have 'world class' players on huge salaries but which was the better 'team'. We not only showed great spirit but we are now starting to show much more invention too. A good day.

schatfield added 16:37 - Dec 8
so that's why we paid 15M for Osvaldo :)

Top drawer goal.

sheffieldsaint added 17:11 - Dec 8
Best goal at st Mary's? How about David Connolly's one against Middlesbrough in Oct/ Sept 2011? The one that finished off a 25 pass move involving most players over several minutes.

SaintNick50 added 17:57 - Dec 8
I wish Lallana would stop diving this happens too often, he should leave the cheating to the likes of Suarez, he is so skilled he doesn't need to have this unsavoury element in his game.

Delighted for Jack Cork, more positive than Wanyama and pinpoint 20 yard passes.

simmo400 added 20:18 - Dec 8
Yes after the first 20 mins I thought it was mainly all Saints getting stronger all through the game. Osvaldo owed the Saints fans for his mostly inept displays, hopefully this will spur him on for the future. Let's no forget that he missed three other chances that didn't worry the keeper at all. Great goal but I feel RL is a better option.

stmichael added 20:37 - Dec 8
Just a performance to make you proud.
At the end of the game we had 9 Englishman on the pitch and they had none.
3 18yr olds - astounding really that we were the better team against the richest club team in the world.
Make no mistake they were delighted with a point.
Very pleased for Dani and loved his celebration.
SRL would never have scored a goal like that but he would have BURIED the other 2!!
As for GAZA I want him to succeed but I have no confidence he would save ANYTHING on target.
The goal was slap bang middle of the target and he just watched it.
Hopefully Kelvin will be fit Saturday.

brady100 added 21:30 - Dec 8
Excellent performance, tough game next week let's hope we can put in another top performance as we need 3 points. Shaw showed how he's improving each week, with his best attacking performance to date and Chambers was equally impressive...outstanding talent. Cork and Davis where also terrific and showed their quality on the ball as well as undoubted work rate. On to Newcastle!!

gartan added 22:15 - Dec 8
Top performance and result given the circumstances. Big credit has to go to MP for trusting his young players and practicing what we preach about the youth set up. The performance was as important as the result and against man city it makes it all the more impressive. Good report Nick

Sango123 added 01:55 - Dec 9
I think we all are guilty of the same problem of feeling gloomy. I would be thankful for a point before the game because of our recent form and results. At the end of the game I am very proud to say we are the better team and Man City will be the team happier with the point.

The players who come in all did very well. Special praise must be given to Jack Cork who has not been playing much this season. I do feel that he should be given more playing time after this wonderful performance.


bstokesaint added 12:38 - Dec 9
I'm very pleased to see Cork have such a great game. It's amazing he's been left out in the cold so often when you consider that Wanyama is making a loss of mistakes distribution-wise and undoing a lot of his more positive ball-winning. work. The same can be said of Davis. He just comes in and gets on with it. He's not 'Mr. Excitement' but he's a proper professional, the kind you'd miss if he suddenly wasn't available for any reason. It really emphasises how much strength we have in the midfield. Fair play to Chambers too. Ever since his first game for us I've had total faith in him when he steps it up into the first team. Our academy is producing some absolute stars at the moment. It's a good place to be. Next up then Harrison Reed. How good is he going to be..?

IanRC added 16:45 - Dec 9
Cork was magnificent and I hope our manager has got over his pig headed attitude to him. In most cases I would start him ahead of Wanyama and it is a shame it has taken MoPo so long to do so and then only because of an injury. Thought everyone played well, Osvaldo's goal was sublime but his two misses were horrendous so I hope you are wrong about preferring him to SRL all the time as that would be another big mistake. As you probably gather I am not convinced our manager has correctly assessed our squad judging by his selections at times.

Apart from losing Nasri for their goal thought Chambers was magnificent but then so were most of them. Shaw continues to develop, super cross just a shame Chambers could not get on the end of it properly.


BoondockSaint added 19:53 - Dec 9
Nice to see MP has the "if you're good enough, you're old enough" policy. Doesn't matter who we're playing. Taking notes, Mr. Hodgson?

zonehead added 20:25 - Dec 9
I agree Osvaldo great goal but he did misseasier chances I would still have Ricky as first choice

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