Southampton At Swansea City The Verdict
Sunday, 9th Jan 2022 09:31
Saints got their FA Cup campaign underway in Wales as they did their League Cup campaign, but they found this tie a lot harder than 5 months ago in Newport, but they dug in and found resilience and moved into the 4th round.
Ralph Hasenhuttl had to make changes due to injury and Covid, but he still put out a strong side, arguably the strongest line up he could have selected and it turned out he needed to after the sending off of Yan Valery on the half hour mark.
The game started well for Swansea and they had a lot of the ball, but you sensed that Saints were biding their time and waiting for the moment to press them, this proved to be the case in the 8th minute when Saints got the ball from the Swans and went forward quickly Nathan Redmond being played through and he finished with aplomb.
For the next 22 minutes Saints were in command and you felt that this was going to be a smooth passage through to the 4th round, but that proved not to be the case in the 30th minute, ex Saint Michael Obafemi went past Yan Valery and knowing that he had overran the ball went to ground, it was the faintest touch from the Saints man and in my opinion not a foul, but the referee didn't see it that way and flashed a yellow card, the problem was this was Valery's second of the game and off he went.
Now the game had changed, but Saints revamped, put James Ward Prowse to right back and although Swansea had a lot of the ball, they had little chance to do much with it, long range efforts in the main that flew high and wide.
Fresh legs were introduced just after the hour and as the last 10 minutes approached you felt that Saints would see it out, indeed they came nearer than Swansea to scoring when a JWP free kick found Jack Stephens unmarked at the far post, but he put his header wide.
That should have sealed the tie, but in the 77th minute Swansea equalised and we looked in for a torrid last 10 minutes or so, that didn't materialise although Swansea could have won it in the last minute with Fraser Forster making a decent save.
So to extra time and 4 minutes in Swansea went ahead when Jan Bednarek put the ball in his own net, at this moment it looked like Saints would be making a 3rd round exit.
But straight from the kick off the ball was played forward and then crossed into the box where Mohammed Elyounoussi was unmarked, he took a touch to set himself and then fired home.
This seemed to knock the stuffing out of Swansea and give Saints the impetus, in the 12th minute of the first half of extra time James Ward Prowse foraging forward crossed for Shane Long to fire home what turned out to be the winner from close range.
You felt that this was now Saints day and this proved to be the case.
The match stats were obviously not great reading, but this was a game where Saints showed their character and won through in a game they would have lost a year ago.
The key now is that we have more depth in the squad, Shane Long has come in for some criticism from supporters who ask why he is still at the club, they got their answer in the home match against Spurs and they got it again at Swansea with a battling 42 minutes from the Irishman that was rewarded with his extra time winner.
A year ago we would have played the likes of Dan N'Lundulu when we were stretched through injury, yes we are paying Shane Long a decent wage, but he has proved his worth in recent weeks.
The real issue of the day though was the sending off of Yan Valery, as I mentioned I feel that Obafemi went to ground too easily and it wasn't a foul, but it means that Valery will be suspended for the Brentford game on Tuesday and we suddenly go from having 3 right backs in Tino Livramento, Kyle Walker Peters and Valery himself, to having none available on Tuesday night, James Ward Prowse is a quality stand in so that is not a problem, but we will miss him in midfield.
Slowly but surely we are building momentum, this was our 4th unbeaten game in a row, indeed we have only been beaten once in the last 7, however we need to start converting draws into wins, as we have also only won once.
But the main thing at Swansea was going through to the 4th round and that we managed, it was perhaps not in the fashion that we would have hoped for, but it was just as pleasing than if we had won 4-0 as we showed character, we showed we have a squad that can cope with an injury/covid crisis, something we couldn't do last year.
With new owners in place, hopefully this can be the beginning of a new era.
Photo: Action Images
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