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Southampton V Leicester City The Verdict
Saturday, 1st May 2021 09:43

It was a feeling of deja vu at St Mary's with the early sending off of Jannik Vestergaard, but Saints showed how far they have come as a team and instead of collapsing stayed solid to earn a deserved draw, it felt like a win !

The team news from St Mary's drew a few gasps even from people like myself who are firmly in the pro Ralph Hasenhuttl camp, Minamino suddenly back in from the cold, Jack Stephens in at left back and Diallo & Walcott dropped.

But from the start Saints looked a balanced side and one that was clearly focused on the task ahead, but after only 9 minutes things went wrong and it was a feeling of deja vu in the TV watching Saints support.

Even the pundits were in total agreement on this one, Jannik Vestergaard had played the ball although he caught Jamie Vardy in the follow through it was not intended, it was not a red card, referee Rob Jones let his inexperience show and flashed a red card without thinking about it.

Jan Bednarek calmed his team down, he knew the ball had been played and was confident that the red card would be overturned, but whoever was on VAR did not overturn it and even more inexplicably they confirmed that the sending off was for preventing a goal scoring opportunity, but Vestergaard had played the ball cleanly and Vardy even if he had not been hit by the challenge would never have reached it.

I have been and remain an advocate of VAR, but only when it is used properly and last night made me think that the problem is the referee's themselves, it is almost as if they see VAR as something that undermines their authority and exposes their mistakes, it is almost as if they are deliberately sabotaging it in order to get it scrapped.

Harsh words but I can see no other reason as to why so many wrong decisions are given by VAR.

Vestergaard's troubles were of his own making though, his mis control of a simple pass put him in the situation.

So it was deja vu both from Leicester's last visit to St Mary's and also our game earlier this year at Old Trafford and both those games had a terrible ending.

But this time it didn't decimate the team spirit, it seemed to stir it up and Saints had a dogged determination that was not going to be broken.

The traffic was always going to be one way and with Nathan Tella who had looked lively early doors having to be sacrificed to bring on Mohamed Salisu, Saints had to regroup.

But although Leicester pushed forward with an arrogance that suggested they now saw the result as a formality , they found it wasn't going to be easy, they would have to fight for every ball.

Saints knew they had an uphill struggle on their hands and it seemed for a while that they were playing the ref as well, he let a foul on Nathan Redmond go without a yellow card, yet moments later booked Minamino for a similar challenge .

But Saints stayed firm until the break, they had a chance of their own and although Alex McCarthy had a couple of saves to make they were all routing and the red & white wall held firm.

After weathering the early second half bluster Saints took a shock lead when VAR spotted a handball and James Ward Prowse converted the penalty, suddenly with less than 30 minutes left the home side had something to hold.

But they didn't hold it for long and 7 minutes later Leicester were level and with 22 minutes left surely they could put the game to bed.

But more resolute defending boosted by the tiring legs of Minamino being replaced by Ibrahimo Diallo meant that Leicester for all their pressure, for all their attempts on goal, rarely actually created a chance of note, on one occasion when they did with Jamie Vardy turning and getting n a shot from close range Alex McCarthy saved well with his legs.

The final minutes were not the tension filled ones we thought they would be and whilst there was that nagging thought that Saints would give it away in the final minutes they didn't and a draw felt like a win.

This game encompasses all that has been going wrong in the last few months, Ralph Hasenhuttl has taken some flak from some supporters, but if Saints had lost this one it would have been to events beyond the control of the manager, the sending off was ultimately down to both Vestergaard's poor control and poor refereeing decisions again both on the pitch and in the VAR control room.

A manager no matter how good he is cannot prevent these things and to be blunt they have happened too often for comfort and Ralph must be tearing his hair out both at his players for these rash moments of play and referee's whether on the pitch or on VAR.

This season has petered out, but on Friday night against Leicester we showed that we have a good foundation to move forward, we showed that we have made progress, not only from when Hasenhuttl arrived in December 2018, not only from when Leicester last arrived in October 2019, not only from our trip to Old Trafford earlier in the year, but continuously and are making sure that we are becoming stronger through adversity.

There will be changes in the summer, Ralph knows now who he can count on and who he can't, he will have noted that when Mohamed Salisu replaced Jannik Vestergaard we became stronger at the back and had a central partnership that complimented each other , Jan Bednarek being the stopped and Salisu with a calm reading of the game that got his side out of trouble on several occasions.

Ironically although we got a good point we could drop down to 4th from bottom and that will bring some wailing if we do, but we turned a corner against Leicester and can build on it.

This was truly a team display and hard to pick a man of the match, literally every player on there for us could make a claim, but for me I would perhaps go for Mohamed Salisu, he made things look simple, he made last ditch tackles etc when needed, but on a lot of occasions he didn't need to because he had read the game and could simply step in and get the ball without needing to make a challenge.

I saw that when he first came into the side and I saw it again last night, all he lacks now is experience at this level, hopefully he will get it in the final games, whether Jannik Vestergaard is suspended or not I would play Salisu give him that experience and we might just find we have a player on our hands.

It is perhaps a sign of the the last few months that a draw like this should get me excited, God knows we have had little to cheer, but when we do we should do so, we need to get our pride in Southampton FC back, the players did last night and we as supporters need to as well, if we want to move forward we have to realise we can only play the hand we have got, we need to lose the cynicism towards our own team and support it, this has not been the worst season we have ever had, far from it.

Photo: Action Images

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Farlow added 10:03 - May 1
I think Jack Stephens deserves a lot of credit considering how little game time hes had
i thought he like the rest did a great job to gain a point.

corkcitysaint added 10:05 - May 1
The team and manager have come in for a lot of criticism in the last number of months. Some justified, some not. But credit has to go to them last night for the way they fought and hung in there. At this point in the season and way the way the performances have gone of late, it was easy to think of another 9-0 coming with a team collapsing. I certainly did at first.. But credit to them. If they put that effort into every game, then we would be where we started the season. Hopefully, we can build on this performance and use it as springboard for the last few games, using the summer to re-evaluate, add / strengthen the squad and kick on next season.

As for the Vestergaard sending off, I'm not too surprised. Many times this season and last, he has been lazy in ball distribution. Keeping it too long, getting closed down and invariably running into trouble resulting in passing it back to the keeper. and bring pressure on ourselves. Llast night he got found out. I hope he learns from this. Having said all that, I thought the sending off was harsh. He did play the ball but the follow -through caught Vardy. Vardy as we all know isn't the most honourable of players and wasn't going to stay on his feet.. The only saving grace was it wasn't a penalty.

On a final note, I'm delighted for Ralph we got a point from last night. He's had a tough number of months. Has he made mistakes? yes, but all managers do. For the limited money we have and the squad of players, we are punching above our weight most of the time but he is committed to the club and we as fans should be committed to a manger that has invested a lot of himself into the club. Unlike others in the past who just punch in / out in the day and take the pay cheque..

SanMarco added 10:06 - May 1
Good performance and a thoroughly deserved point. I suppose the big difference was that the sending off didn't come with a goal as well like last time. Ralph also made a sensible substitution and Salisu played very well. Stephens didn't let us down either and KWP excellent. The usual hard workers worked hard and apart from one moment of idiocy McCarthy was good too. Bad miss from Tella at the start - he needs to put one of those away soon.

The penalty was absurd. I had the sound down to avoid the drivel so I assumed that it was dangerous play because Vardy was CLEARLY not going to get that ball. The ref had two simple decisions to make 1. Was it a foul? 2. Was Vardy going to get that ball? Those saying that it was a foul are watching in slow motion (like the VAR man was). Watch it at full speed and you see clearly that it was accidental. Drop a plate in slow motion and it looks as if you were carelss not to catch it on the way down. We have come to the stage where Vesty is being told he can't make that saving tackle in case he touches the man. ABSURD.

TeamCortese added 10:20 - May 1
Right! 3-more points needed and I'm done with football...at least until August. The sport is rotten to the core and really needs the parasite cleaned out asap. This is not just in the so-called big six but also in our club too with Mr. Silent Gao at the forefront of mind.

Up the saints!

Centurion added 10:23 - May 1
If Fulham lose to Chelski and we drop to 17th it won't really matter. As long as we are well clear of the bottom three, who cares if we finish 17th, 16th or 15th?

felly1 added 11:01 - May 1
Ironically I think we played better in this match with 10 men and would have probably lost if Vestergaard never got sent off.
Leicester would have prepared to face us knowing full well our strengths and weakness and like most other teams they would exploit those obvious failings in tactics and personal... Particularly the 2nd half of games.
The sending off forced Ralph and the boys to adopt a more pragmatic approach and get two banks of four behind the ball and make life difficult offensively for our opposition. Similar to Chelsea at home this season when we sat back and defended and then took our chance with a quickfire attack to salvage a point.
Not particularly entertaining way to play the game but likely to have gotten us a few more points during this terrible spell.

halftimeorange added 11:07 - May 1
It took mumbling Martin Tyler less than ten seconds to mention the 0-9 and he brought it up again several times before I, too, like San Marco turned the sound down. Vestergaard should know that you cannot take chances with a player like Vardy. He is quick and will feign injury but, Jannik did get the ball and pass it in the direction of McCarthy so the decision and its confirmation were hopefully yet another nail in the coffin of VAR. Salisu for me stood out as our most aware defender but, one can't knock the efforts of Bednarek, KWP and Stephens who didn't make many errors. Jack has a career to come but, not really in this division. I was sorry to see Tella go off. I think he's significantly less flimsy than Minamino when defending or battling for the ball. I can't see Fulham getting ten points even if we achieved none so, Saints board better come up with a robust plan for next season or risk much disenchantment amongst their long-suffering fanbase, myself included.

HythePeer added 11:14 - May 1
I have two points:
Vest slipped as be received the ball and lost it to Vardy, Vest recovered the ball moving it from Vardy's immediate control, Vest then went on to "carelessly" trip Vardy. Consequently, he deserved a yellow card or if he was judged to have been "reckless", then a red. (Either seems to be valid under FIFA law). But he was red-carded for preventing an "obvious goal scoring opportunity", but the ball was somewhere between Vardy and the keeper so the outcome was not obvious. If I can work that out, then why can't the 4th official??!

The defence played well by not using the manager's usual reckless use of advancing full backs with a more measured approach (esp Stephens). And not insisting on suicidal high lines for the centre backs. This was forced upon him with the sending off, I hope he learns from this and employs it as default, with eleven men.

sandywelsh added 11:43 - May 1
Nick Jonathan Moss was doing VAR last night so say no more!

highfield49 added 11:49 - May 1
I believe the VAR official was Jon Moss, enough said. Salisu absolutely a first choice pick next season, we've bought some dead wood in recent years but he looks like the real deal. Minamino disappointing and not the player he looked to be a few months back. Jack Stephens had one of his best games but I get the distinct impression that he has issues with the manager, pretty much ignoring RH at the end of the match. Terrific performance though against a very good Leicester team and Che Adams not only worked hard but actually looked fitter and sharper. My doom and gloom has been lifted because we looked competitive and capable of picking up a couple of wins before the season ends.

highfield49 added 11:51 - May 1
Beat me to it sandywelsh. Yup Jon Moss.

Colburn added 12:07 - May 1
Terrific effort from most of the team last night after another clown reduced us to ten men. I agree with Felly that had Salisu not entered the fray, we would have lost, even with 11. Salisu was magnificent, especially in the first half and he deserves to keep his place. Fair play to Stephens who stepped in again out of position having had no game time for weeks. I have to point out a couple of negatives though. Ralph removed the wrong Nathan for Salisu as yet again, Redmond and indeed Minamino merely pretended to close down the opposition, too scared to tackle in case they got hurt. The goal came from a cross which was so easy to deliver, I urge you Nick to watch it again and see how little effort Redmond made to stop the cross, utterly pathetic, but I didn't see much better from Minamino. Tella should have stayed on instead of one of them. KWP made a couple of vital headers at the back post and it was good to see that improvement in his game and this bodes well. Finally, Jon Moss showed he's not even fit enough to keep up with play from a chair and a screen, let alone on the pitch and he should go back to Culture Club.

saintmark1976 added 12:25 - May 1
Steptoe really is the epitome of all that is currently rotten about professional football. Had he not gone down in the fashion of being shot from the stand then an inexperienced referee would not have been conned into giving a penalty. I for one will be delighted when his career is over and we don’t have to watch him at St Mary’s.

In reference to the match. At last a “blood and guts” performance. No coincidence perhaps that both the contract problems Ings and Bertrand didn’t feature?


WestSussexSaint added 13:04 - May 1
For all those fans who said Ralph doesn’t have a plan B, he played the perfect one last night. Salisu was motm for me and deserves more chances now in the centre back position. The rest of the 10 on the pitch all played their part and deserve the credit today. In particular Che Adams ran himself into the ground last night with the thankless task of defending from the front. When defenders see that from a striker they know they have to play their part.

On the sending off it was ridiculous and even if the inexperienced ref made a mistake, VAR should have corrected it. I maintain VAR is a good thing but the muppets who control it are the problem and conflicted by potentially overruling a colleague. Get an independent assessor in there, preferably an ex player who knows the rules and VAR will work much better.

JoeEgg added 13:16 - May 1
Very difficult to analyse a match where inept officials needed just 10 minutes to ruin the match. There should be an independent 'body' somewhere that can examine their efforts and then make public the advice and action that is taken to at least try and improve both the quality and consistency of their performances. We all know that these officials have a difficult job to do, but it is fair to say that across the whole spectrum of World football, English referees, rightly, have an appalling reputation and record. This was a vital game for Saints and Leicester - allbeit for very different reasons - and it has to be said, for other sides too that maybe involved either with European aspirations or just trying to avoid relegation . There was a chorus of anger that protested against the attempted formation of a European Super League. Maybe we need something similar to tackle the appalling refereeing standards in this country, before their misguided actions threaten to turn millions away from our national game!

IanRC added 13:18 - May 1
Disagree about Redmond in the comments above, thought he and Adams worked themselves to exhaustion closing people down, agree however that Salisu was our MOTM.

Regarding the sending off, it came as no surprise to learn that Moss was on VAR and Marriner was fourth official, that combined with a referee who appeared clearly determined to book all our players whilst ignoring worse challenges from Leicester players made me think it was written in the stars (the Leicester left back escaped any punishment for a far worse challenge than Vestergaard on the touch line). I actually gasped in amazement when the penalty was given such was the bias previously on display.

If the FA has any scrap of integrity left Vestergaard’s red card will be overturned on appeal. That said the officials did their utmost to ruin a good game of football up until the sending off. I do not agree that we would have lost if the sending off had not occurred but I do agree that Salisu looked a lot better as a pairing with the much under-estimated Jan Bednarak. The reason he is prone to own goals is the same as the reason he is the defender with the most blocks, he gives his all.

All told then a very encouraging performance, hope Tella and Jankewitz are given opportunities before the season’s end. Don’t think we missed Bertrand at all and Ings much.

SaintPaulVW added 13:19 - May 1
It was just an awful decision to send Vestergaard off. I am now unsure how players are supposed to tackle in a 50:50 situation if you now must not contact the player afterwards. Similarly, how can you be penalised for preventing a goal scoring opportunity if you win the ball before contacting the player? Both the Ref's and VAR's different interpretations just seem b@tsh1t crazy to me.

Crucially, after JV went off we carried on playing well. We tightened up which probably suited the 3 CBS playing. Playing this way and trying to hit sides on the break may offer a better points return over a season than the more exciting to watch but resource draining high press.

To me, Minamino just looks too lightweight for the PL.

I often feel we are too hard on Redmond. His main job is the role that Shane Long had. press defenders and pull them out of shape to create space. He does this well. However Shane was usually taken off shortly after half time. Nathan never is. Consequently, his performance always drops in the second half.

I thought Salisu was absolutely superb. He must have earned a starters berth now, even if it's at left back. Diallo also looked a bit more solid when he came on. He's not a Romeu type tackler but looks a good technical player able to play out of trouble and lay off a pass. If he can bulk up a bit he'll be in the mix.

Jack Stephens looked good too. He often looks good when he comes back after having been dropped for a few games. He is probably going to have to settle for a bit part role if he wants to stay. Whether he is happy to do this, I don't know.

Tella should have taken his chance and if only KWP could have just stayed on side....Redeemed himself with some great defensive play though. Really put himself about.

It was a draw that felt like a win. I am not despondent for next year. With a few good recruits this could be a very good team.


KriSaint added 13:35 - May 1
I am very satisfied with the performance and with this article, so a thanks to Ralph and the team and Nick.
Very impressing performance by all the players, Vesty unlucky of course. Who else than that fish & chips eating idiot, Jon Moss, didn't overturn the ridiculous red card. Thanks to Vesty for getting a small revenge on the drug dealer look-alike, dirty Vardy, who stole about 20 league games and a cup run from VVD back in 2016/2017.
A mention for center forward Che Adams for fighting his heart out in a very difficult game, and for me Salisu broke through in the PL with the things Nick rightfully mentions he (Salisu) did. He is a very, very good signing.
Game on.

Boris1977 added 14:31 - May 1
All of us would have taken a point from this match before the game so getting that from this match is a bonus.

It's too early to conclude that we have turned a corner but this match should be the dvd that Ralph and the players should study and integrate into all other matches. We cannot go hell leather for 90 mins as we have seen over the last few seasons.

The majority of us want Ralph to succeed with us but he does need to learn from past mistakes and build on lessons learnt based on what does work from the last to the next. The lesson learnt from yesterday's match is that Salisu should start next match regardless of the red card standing or otherwise. But let's not forget if if the red card had not been issued Salisu would have stayed on the bench.

In Ralph we trust coyrs .

Boris1977 added 14:33 - May 1
Ps always happy when jack has a good game. Hes certainly one of our road sweepers rather than violinists as Lawrie Mac would say.

YosemiteSaint added 18:04 - May 1
This game wasn't easy on the eyes. But i agree that it showed (1) what we've learnt, and (2) what we can build on. The best bit for me was it amply demonstrated who we can keep and who can leave. Vestergaard had one purple patch for us at the start of the season. But he's back to his old self, and with Salisu showing his quality i think i've no problems with cashing in on Vestergaard. Also, Danny Ings is fooling himself if he thinks he can replicate what he did last season, and we're showing we can play without him. So i think we can cash in on him too and let him play a bit part at Citeh (when he's not in hospital, of course). So, a defender and a striker can go, we can get good money for them, and with the funds (provided Gao doesn't pocket them!) we can replace these with players with even better ones. I'm still unhappy now, but agree with you that the future's bright, the future's red and white!

stmichael added 23:25 - May 1
How anyone could write a verdict that long without mentioning Jack is beyond me.
He alongside Salisu was immense.
For attitude and commitment he is as good as we have.
Well done Jack Stephen’s 👏👏

Peterx added 18:47 - May 2
A lot of good comments on Salisu, Jack and KWP as well.

To me though what stood out is how stable we looked with Stuart Armstrong in defensive midfield. Unfortunately throughout this season he has been our best attacking option as well, so we wont be able to play him there long term unless we clone him.

Easily our player of the season with JWP and KWP for me being runners up.


underweststand added 21:00 - May 2
Most of you have made all the valid points ,( including the incredible effort that Vardy made to summon up an ambulance) and it doubtful that he even touched the ball, as JV got to the ball first, and it was his trailing leg that caught Vardy's foot.
My commentator repeated that it was only the the ref's 9th Prem. game - and 3 of those involving matches with Leicester - (he must know them all on first name terms by now).
The outcome - by the way - was not a penalty, but a free kick on the edge of the box.

YES it was a good defensive show from everyone. Alex McCarthy making a series of good saves, and Walker-Peters in the thick of it. I see that I was not the only person to make Salisu man of the match. Strong and direct, without unnecessary fouling, calm with the ball , and looked to have plenty of time to react. Looks to be a real find.
Prowsey outstanding playing a captain's role, and netting the penalty into the bargain.

Only one point , but whilst playing with 10 men for 83 minutes - it almost felt like a win.

SaintStu7 added 20:07 - May 3
Did anyone notice the commentators totally changed their tune after half time. From complete Leicester bias and appearing to agree with the sending off to totally castigating it after half time. I think they were given a kick up the a**e.

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