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Southampton V Leicester City Fa Cup Semi Final Verdict
Monday, 19th Apr 2021 10:12

A disappointing day, a dour game with both sides failing to produce their best form and the game being settled by the only shot on target in the entire match, but I enjoyed it for several reasons and although some will say otherwise it is better to have reached this stage and lost than not reach it at all.

This verdict won't feature much about the game for several reasons, the first is there aren't many incidents of note in it and the second I watched it in a pub garden where 100 or so Saints supporters roared on their team with gusto, it was perhaps not as good as being in the stadium itself, but it was a close second.

The game itself was a damp squid, Saints certainly played with a spirit that was lacking last Monday at the Hawthorns, but in short both sides cancelled each other out and failed to be able to get their strikers into the game.

From a Saints perspective the back four played as it did earlier in the season and protected Fraser Forster in goal and at the other end Leicester's defence did the same.

From this viewpoint we cannot complain about the team or the tactics, they gave their all and Ralph Hasenhuttl wasted no time in trying to change things in the second half when we went a goal behind and indeed in the final stages, but Leicester are a good well organised team and sometimes that is the way it goes.

In the case of this game as I said both sides cancelled each other out, the possession was slightly in Saints favour at 51%, the attempts slightly in Leicester's 10 against our 6, but in the end the only stat that counted was the shots on target and in the entire game there was only one and that was the goal.

Games like this are won by luck and Leicester had it, the initial shot was going six yards wide when it hit Jannik Vestergaard and rebounded to Iheanacho who suddenly found himself 8 yards out with a wide open goal gaping and he obliged.

No one can be blamed for this that is the FA Cup and what it is renowned for , freak goals that change games and indeed seasons.

Perhaps some will disagree with my view and claim it was a dull game and Saints failed to get a shot on target, I can't argue with that, but Saints didn't achieve that stat by sitting back and being overwhelmed, they played their part and attacked the Foxes, but sadly on the day it was Leicester who got the luck.

Perhaps my viewpoint is a little tainted, those sat on their sofa's could sit back and analyse the game, I was in a pub garden surrounded by a dozen or so mates and loads of other Saints fans, all socially distanced of course .

We had one TV screen to watch in on and to be blunt for many it was the first time in 13 months they were experiencing what football is all about, we might have been 80 miles from Wembley, but we supported the team as if we were in the ground, there was singing, shouting and leaping from seats at key moments, almost as good as being at a game itself, with the added advantage that unlike at a normal game where you can't have a beer in your seat, we had waitress service so didn't need to leave it to buy and drink one.

So my day is slightly rose tinted, I wasn't watching the game with the idleness we have become used to as armchair fans for the last year, I was enjoying a game of football in the manner in which up until March of last year we all took for granted.

So although I'm disappointed at the result and I'm sure the team is as well, I enjoyed the game and the chance to watch Saints in an FA Cup semi final, the pattern of the game was set, we tried to change it but couldn't, but we were up against a team currently sitting 3rd in the Premier League, one of the most consistent teams in the division in the last couple of years, we played them at their own game and although we lost we can walk away with our heads held high, we matched them in every department bar one and that was strokes of good luck.

Brendan Rodgers is claiming that this win is the sign that Leicester are ready to kick on and show they can challenge for trophies on a regular basis, we are behind them in that respect, but we did show that we can reach the semi finals of the most famous cup competition in the World and compete, we are still a work in progress, but Sunday at Wembley showed that we have some solid foundations to build on.

Photo: Action Images

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LordDZLucan added 10:24 - Apr 19
Wow, is that the way you really saw the game, Nick? You said in your preview that ‘the main thing is that our team goes out there with spirit, determination, concentration and belief’. Well, from the comfort of my armchair I would say that we didn’t get any of those four. The team seemed really flat, we were second to most balls, there was the almost obligatory piece of poor defending on the right flank that led to the goal and once we had gone a goal behind we didn’t seem to have a clue how to apply pressure to create some chances. It was an FA Cup semi-final for Christ’s sake. You would never have known from our performance. Something has to change. The only thing that is keeping Ralph in a job is the 20 or so games after lockdown when we seemed to have discovered a way of playing that suited the players we’ve got. Without that he would be dead in the water as he’s had almost 3 years in the job now. He needs to very quickly rediscover his mojo.

halftimeorange added 10:37 - Apr 19
I guess we're all disappointed but, unsurprised. Probably the team feels like that, too. As others have said in their match reports we created zilch and I wonder if any team in a game of this magnitude has passed the ball backwards as many times as Saints did. There was one worrying sign of desperation from early on and that was Danny Ings falling over in search of a penalty on the few occasions he had the ball. Perhaps he knew his real chances of a shot on goal might never come. At halftime I expressed the view to anyone around me still awake that if Saints played till midnight they'd never score. By the way we were all wearing sunglasses which seemed more appropriate to the weather than the rose-tinted spectacles apparently applied to the "Verdict" above. The team just isn't playing as a team - not for Ralph, us or themselves and it's been going on far too long.

wibbersda added 10:38 - Apr 19
Brenden's 3-5-2 totally stifled our midfield and once again Ralph's in-game tactics are found wanting. As he only appears to have one philosophy, the opposition just needs to follow this method of controlling the midfield and that's the end of Saints. 11 in 14 defeats pretty much confirms this.

AndyD added 10:52 - Apr 19
I'm glad you enjoyed your day Nick. From where i sat in my comfy armchair Saints missed a great opportunity - they were outclassed & out thought. in my view its time for a complete change if we are ever going to progress. Yes I know we have little money & cant buy £30m players but the players don't seem to be able to step up when it matters. The academy players are not good enough for 1st team - i have followed Saints for nearly 60 years & it hurts when they put in these tyre of performances. I've seen plenty of highs & lows over the years & just when you think this is the moment they implode & go back to bad habits. To me they played like the main object was not to get another hammering. I still think they could get relegated this season if they don't get another 3 points. I cant see where that win will come on present form.

PatfromPoole added 10:56 - Apr 19
It was a great craic at the pub, Nick. Thanks very much for the invite.

Just glad the dibble didn’t hang around for long....

obelisk added 10:59 - Apr 19
Leicester didn't have to break sweat really and I imagine that if Saints had been lucky enough to steal a goal advantage the Foxes would have applied a lot more pressure than our boys managed.

The response to going behind was completely predictable because we've seen it so many times before. This time embarrassingly on the grand stage we saw the same old stodgy direction, fluffed lines and poor timing that left the TV audience wondering whether Saints were producing a tragedy or a comedy.

I'm glad Nick managed to enjoy a pub atmosphere while watching the game but that doesn't get away from the fact that if Saints carry on like this relegation will be pretty much nailed on next season.

SaintPaulVW added 11:08 - Apr 19
Nervy affair from start to finish. I can't say I enjoyed it. A sunny beer garden with some noise was a good choice.

It looked like a 50:50 game at half time. The lack of shots on target summed the game up.

saintmark1976 added 11:08 - Apr 19
Firstly, congratulations to Leicester. I hope they go on an win the cup, particularly given that Chelsea appear to be one of the clubs in favour of a European Super League. A win for Leicester would put Chelsea in their place, albeit only temporarily I suspect.

Your match report is a valiant attempt to avoid reality Nick. Nonetheless I’m pleased to learn of your exploits in the pub garden and the fun with your mates. Back on planet earth, yesterday’s performance by the team and manager was shockingly inept from start to finish, ranking with recent displays at Newcastle and W B A.

Ralph picked the wrong team, failed to motivate the players he chose and once again showed that he has no idea in regard tactics or player substitutions. In respect of the players you could see that they are not playing for him, secure in the knowledge that they will still pick up £50000 per week for simply going through the motions.

NewburySaint added 11:11 - Apr 19
Out with a whimper-maybe we were playing for extra time forgetting we were 1 down.....

It will be a long time before we get a better chance to reach an FA Cup final in terms of semi final opposition because Leicester were very ordinary and very beatable on the day.

Time to plan for next season now in terms of our team-Tella needs to be given an extended run in the team to see if he can back up the undoubted potential he appears to have, Minamino should be given an extended run in the team to see if he is someone we need to pursue going forward, whether permanently or another loan, and Adams needs to start up front, not just because he was in form prior to the internationals and was really unlucky to find himself out of the team, but also because he is likely to be our main striker going forward because Ings’ lack of interest in his performances since the new year, other than against his former clubs, is a man wishing to leave this summer or at the end of his contract.

Salisu also needs extended game time now, in for either JB or JV, doesn’t really matter who although as JV’s contract is also up soon maybe him. And it’s also a pity we don’t have another left back because Bertrand’s performances also suggest he ain’t going to be around much longer.

And I know we’re not safe from relegation yet but none of the above, particularly in the forward positions, can be any worse than our current “favoured” 11 have been recently.

Centurion added 11:28 - Apr 19
Yes Nick, we played well enough to keep the defeat down to a respectful 1 goal.
I interpreted the display quite differently from you.
I saw a team that seemed to be lacking belief or conviction and one that may have felt that the only chance of winning was a huge slice of luck.
Hope we survive, we should if Fulham keep letting in late goals, but the likelihood of finishing 17th for the second time in 4 years is looking on the cards.

Boris1977 added 11:46 - Apr 19
Football is a game of opinions as the cliché goes but the stats are the facts success is judged on. I've lowered my expectations over the past 4 months to expect less and less from performances to the extent that I do not expect much more than keeping the score down - but not mustering one shot on goal in a cup semi final - come on.

It's pointless going on about the issues at the club, but we are playing as if we are running the season down in mid table. If that were the case, as annoying as that would be, at least nothing would be riding on it. But we had the favourable draw in the cup and we are still in the relegation battle and that could not motivate these players. What is wrong with them? Tiredness? Annoyed with each other, annoyed with the manager? Already made plans to move to other clubs? Bored?

We don't know for sure but one thing is certain not many supporters would be comfortable with the majority of performances over the last few months. When the season was paused last March the performances were similar to those now e.g. flat, sloppy, struggling at the back and up front, but when the season reassumed in May we hit the ground running and had a strong finish. Is this the key? A small squad being into the ground halfway through the season? Maybe.

I don’t care about winning cups – I just want my club to show desire, passion and enjoy what they are doing as this feeds back to the fans and which in turn encourages the team. Weirdly I’m looking forward to get back to the New Delli when we are allowed to as at the moment I feel completely helpless as my club sleep walks to who knows where.

Please Ralph sort it out – the majority of us want you to succeed and succeed with Saints – but you need to change the team dynamic starting with a win against spuds.


saintjf added 11:54 - Apr 19
Like most of the recent match reports utter twaddle. We have one season left in the premiership if we carry on as we are.

RiverRatGats added 11:56 - Apr 19
My take on the game was quite different to yours Nick. Whilst I would agree we look we organised at the back for the first half, there was no outlet bar a long ball forward from Vestergaard of Forster. There was space on the wings in behind the Leicester fullbacks, but Ings largely stayed central and was eaten up by Evans and Soyuncu at every turn. The amount of times that KWP and Bertrand went forward with the ball, only to turn and play the ball all the way back to Forster was staggering. The press from Leicester was good, but not that extreme. It appears that we lack any kind of composure or power of creative thought in the opposition half any more. Our players look scared when they're pressed and the mindset appears to be hold onto the ball in our half as long as we can, get the possession stats up to mask the ineptitude of the game plan and then hoof the ball forward.

It was clear from the first minute that Leicester planned to swamp the middle of the park with three of four players on our two of Diallo and JWP. We never reacted to that and Ralph changed nothing to try and positively counter that. I don't care how well he did with Leipzig and who he was coaching in that squad. All I care about is what he's doing now and as far as I'm concerned, his record is is now woeful. The fact he appears untouchable is a big part of the problem. There is no consequence to failure, Ralph feels sorry for himself as he has a small squad and no money, so we all feel sorry for ourselves and end up in this awful spiral of self pity. It need changing and soon. I refuse to believe those eleven players couldn't have offered more on the pitch yesterday. The fact Ralph thought that was his boys playing at full-tilt leaves me genuinely astounded.

Leicester were better man for man all over the park, there is no denying that. However, the lack of fire from anyone bar Vestergaard was very concerning. We were happy we didn't get a hiding and that's the sad reality of this era that features two 9-0 humiliations and a couple of 5-2 hidings.

Contrary to some of the other views on here, I can't see us going down this year. We're just about safe and probably pick up a couple of points between now and the end of the season. However, this awful run of form shows no sign of relenting and we will be in the same shoes as Sheffield United this time next year if we don't try and correct the situation. The more damning assessment for me is that I too was half relieved we didn't get a hiding last night and can now limp out of the line of sight of the Sky and BT cameras for the summer. I'd usually be raging over a Saints performance like that, but I'm not. It has all become so predictable, so I will expect nothing, not let Saints ruin my weekends and wait for change. It has to come at some point and I just hope relegation isn't the trigger for it.

saint22 added 11:58 - Apr 19
It's "damp squib"
Glad the pub was fun, the game was poor and once again our team failed to step up when needed
How long does this go on........?

Farlow added 12:13 - Apr 19
That was the most one sided 1-0 i have ever seen,we were totally out played and out thought.The coach needs to be proactive not reactive.An earlier comment said the academy players arent good enough but ife y dont get a chance we,ll never know.
I,m afraid its time for Ralph Hassntgotunklu to move on.

stmichael added 12:43 - Apr 19
Simply dreadful.
Like everything else they have produced in 2021..

saintnik added 12:49 - Apr 19
Did you write this when you were sober because I can't believe what I'm reading. Is there anybody here that believes that we have some solid foundations to build on? If so then I'm glad I'm not living in their house! As far as I can see Saints are rotten to the core and need a complete revamp from top to bottom. Frankly I'm not holding out much hope of anything changing until the ownership changes. Unfortunately it will probably take relegation for the current owners to realise what the club is really worth!

geezershoong1 added 12:51 - Apr 19
So we go every round without conceding and then don't turn up at the semi-final..?
Something is very wrong.

felly1 added 12:51 - Apr 19
Agree with my fellow posters regarding the game. Assuming we're just about safe this season it's hard to envisage anything other than a relegation battle for next season. If this going to be the case the question is do we stick with Ralph or go for a pragmatic approach for survival?
I really hope this isn't the case as I want Ralph to succeed, it's just hard to see a way Saints are going to turn this terrible form around other than signing at least 4 new players and I can't see that happening.

SanMarco added 13:10 - Apr 19
I like Nick's report. I understand the reactions from those disappointed/angry at a 'damp squib' but I don't feel like that. We started with low expectations after a pretty catastrophic run. Leicester are a better side than us and were clear favourites. We started low on confidence and played conservatively. Leicester played to stifle us and use their superior quality in the expectation that they would get one eventually. We weren't 'outclassed' or 'outplayed', we were an out-of- form side trying to win a semi-final.

You have to start from where you are - not where you would like to be. If we had tried the 'high press' from the start and attempted fast, flowing football (the type we have rarely achieved in months) Leicester would have, surely, licked their lips and picked us off at will. I know it is a dreadfully negative way of looking at it but in terms of a tight, nervy semi we did alright in the first half - yes, Leicester were marginally better but it was a 'traditional' error-packed, tense semi.

At half-time Ralph clearly told them to play further forward. If we score in those ten mins then that is tactical genius - the more likely outcome was what actually happened: ball lost on the right, KWP nowhere in sight, ball down the wing, Bednerak too slow to cover, Vardy away, game over. Even then it was a lucky goal, in keeping with the match.

I know people will (perhaps rightly, but this isn't intellectual, it is how I feel/felt) pan me for negativity and low expectations but there was a chance there yesterday. Leicester were nervy. If we had kept it tight and got to 80 mins at 0-0 who knows, a Bobby Stokes might have emerged. Nick admits what he says is a bit 'rose-tinted' but it isn't twaddle. I enjoyed being in a semi-final and even enjoyed the game, although it wasn't the same in a near-empty Wembley. Of course it would have been great to kick-off in 6th place in the table, on good form, and with high confidence - but that is in a parallel universe I'm afraid.

Just two observations on the match itself: The ref's selective use of yellow cards in first half and then the failure to second yellow for the assault on Ings. And, secondly, why on earth didn't Bednerak take one for the team by gently nudging Vardy over? I don't think he was already booked at that stage.

JoeEgg added 13:25 - Apr 19
Another extraordinary verdict from you Nick that is quite simply beyond my comprehension. So what happened to the season that you wanted to call our best ever season? Then belatedly changed to 'one of your best ever seasons'?! The first 45 minutes were so boring it was downright embarrassing, and this was Saints in the Cup Semi Final an achievement that we were supposed to be so proud of. Not ONE shot at goal! And so much for the changes Ralph was allegedly contemplating after the shambolic display at WBA! There were the makings of a better team sitting on our bench than the one going through the motions on the pitch!
Until the last minute of extra time Fulham had been leading in their game with Arsenal and looking to close the gap even further with our team. Quite frankly the way Fulham are playing and working right now they are the ones that deserve to remain in the Premier League and not us!
So Nick you criticised some of us for chosing to express our anger and frustration at the current situation instead bawling our support from the local pub. Well there are some good players at our club, an enormous amount of mediocrity, an academy and youth squad, that we were once so proud of, struggling to win anything anywhere, and a manager who right now simply cant get it right.
Our best ever season? Come on Nick - you got that hopelessly wrong - I can scarcely remember a more disappointing season after so much early promise, and my memory goes back at least as far as yours!

davidargyll added 13:36 - Apr 19
I must be alone in thinking that it was quite an enjoyable game, we gave our all but luck just went against us. Not exactly a thing of beauty I admit but are semi finals ever great spectacles...? I felt we gave as good as we got but couldn't get our shooting boots on.
Funny isn't it how one player can be a real talisman for the team and we just don't seem to have one, Danny Ings having gone into his shell on the evidence of yesterday with a sneaking suspicion that he is doing this to last out the season uninjured.
Armstrong continues to give his all and is becoming more of a leader but always looks like a second-in-command to me, a great one don't get me wrong but not someone who his teammates turn to for inspiration; and JWP is wearing his "best free-kicker in the league" mantle rather heavily these days.
But the one person who I thought really might step up to the plate was Theo Walcott but on virtually every occasion he fluffs his lines, yesterday being no exception; in fact I would go so far as to say that once his loan spell comes to an end we should wish him a fond farewell, or at least only offer to take him on a free if that is possible.
Hey ho; I wonder what sort of challenge a Mourinho-less Spurs will present to us...

Colburn added 14:03 - Apr 19
So we've endured woeful performances recently with some players not even putting in challenges to save themselves for a semi final they failed to turn up in. This was an unsurprising performance for me after seeing Ralph burn out some players mentally and reselect others who show no interest in getting stuck in. I have no idea why Adams didn't start and also why Tella has had such little game time recently after bringing some much needed refreshment to our attacking. We have no pattern of play except the sideways backward passing, partly because the two up front offered nothing as an outlet and trotted round the pitch with no conviction.
I am staggered that we will play a risky pass to one of our cdms or defenders, when they have a man on their shoulder, yet don't make such a pass to an attacker on the edge of the opposition box when they have a man on their shoulder.. Ending up with us passing it back and back until we play another risky pass in our own last third. This is INSANITY.....
Your memory of the game is addled by alcohol, I would suggest Nick, along with the relief of being able to interact with human beings again because what I witnessed was a group of players who didn't turn up for the biggest game of the season and Ralph stuck with his favourites who have let him down recently and they let him down again with a lack of desire or passion. Not asking for them to spill blood, just show up, and they didn't. Ralph's time has run its course for me and its a shame but he just hasn't got certain aspects of management right and hasn't learned from the repeated mistakes.

zonehead added 15:54 - Apr 19
My disappointment is not losing but never looked like winning

davepid added 16:18 - Apr 19
Like you Nic I too have reached my Nirvana as a Saints fan. It means I give far more emphasis to the phrase ‘Que sera sera ‘ at the beginning of the chant than I do it’s ending , which in this case reads ‘ we’re not going to Wembley’.

So I entirely get your point of view. Where I’m critical of it is you seem to have very little empathy for the thousands of our supporters who want to see their team win something more than once a lifetime.

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