23/09/2014: Arsenal 1-2 Saints
Saints won at Arsenal for the first time in 27 years to earn a place in the 4th round of the League Cup. Ronald Koeman's men were well worthy of victory, having dominated the majority of the game.
Saints were initially a bit tentative and it took a while for the team to really get into their stride. Everyone bar Graziano Pelle sat back behind the ball when Arsenal were in possession early on. The Gunners just about edged it in midfield during the first 15 minutes, but were unable to find a way through a well organised opponent.
The midfield trio of Steven Davis, Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama took it in turns to sit back and go forward. It was Davis who had the first major opportunity, latching on to a through ball, before being thwarted by David Ospina. It was Arsenal who struck first however. Alexis Sanchez's free-kick was so perfectly placed Fraser Forster didn't even dive for it.
Saints were very quick to hit back. Sadio Mane had started on the right flank, with Dusan Tadic on the opposite side, before swapping positions. The change paid immediate dividends, with Mane winning a penalty with some tricky play just inside the box. Tomas Rosicky was the Arsenal player guilty of making the clumsy challenge. Dusan Tadic stepped up and placed the ball straight down the middle for 1-1.
Saints grew in confidence after the goal, and were well on top for the rest of the first half. Koeman's side broke quickly and in numbers. Mane made another dangerous run towards goal, but this time Arsenal safely saw the ball out for a goal kick. Pelle hit the outside of the post following a good run from Tadic.
After a lively half hour the pace of the game did slow briefly, with much of the action being contested in the middle of the park. Saints soon turned on the style again, however. On 39 minutes the visitors had a corner which was cleared to Nathaniel Clyne at least 35 yards from goal. The right-back had plenty of time to tee himself up before smashing the ball into the roof of the net for 2-1. It was an incredible effort. Arsenal did have a few chances to level before the break. Forster saved well from Lukas Podolski. Jack Wilshere shot straight at the keeper following a rapid counter attack.
Saints were well on top at the start of the 2nd half. An impressive move down the left saw Mane skilfully flick the ball out to Matt Targett. The full back cut inside before floating the ball to the back post with his weaker right foot to Tadic. He pulled the ball back to Davis, who shot tamely at Ospina under pressure. Minutes later Florin Gardos headed over the bar from a Davis cross. The Arsenal keeper was forced into another great save later on when Tadic struck from a free-kick.
Arsenal briefly rallied after sending on Santi Cazorla in the 66th minute. Forster made another good save, and Isaac Hayden shot well wide. As the home side attempted to push forward though, Saints were finding more space to counter. Pelle shot over from Shane Long's knock-down. The Italian then headed clean over from a corner with five minutes to play. Davis and Tadic had a great chance to settle it towards the end, but got in each other's way. Long was inches away from getting on the end of Tadic's stoppage time cross before the referee finally blew for full-time.
Arsenal weren't at full strength, but that shouldn't take anything away from what was a brilliant performance from Saints. The Gunners still had plenty of quality on show, but the visitors confidently outmatched them. Arsenal had very few clear cut chances, which is a testament to the organisation and hard work put in by Koeman's men. Saints had plenty of variety in their play going forward too. Koeman looks to be treating the competition seriously, and with good reason. Several big teams are already out, while others have it as the third or fourth priority. Saints are genuinely one of the strongest sides left in the tournament. Having been starved of cup success for so long, fans are hungry for glory. This might be our best chance to win some silverware for a while.
Forster: 7. Made a few decent saves. Alert when he needed to be
Clyne: 8. An incredible goal and a great output for Saints going forward down the right
Fonte: 8. Put his body on the line, making a number of impressive blocks and interceptions
Gardos: 8. Well positioned at the back and assured when bringing the ball forward. Looks a real find on this early evidence
Targett: 7. A big test for the youngster, who didn't disappoint. Made it look fairly easy defensively in the first half, and showed his attacking capabilities in the second. Legs had completely gone at least five minutes before he came off
Wanyama: 8. Some great touches to go with the usual physical play
Schneiderlin: 8. Passing mixed early on, but a very strong presence in the centre of the park as you would expect
Davis: 8. Best outing of the season so far. Found plenty of space for himself to showcase his technique
Mane: 7. Some of his runs were easily read by the Arsenal back-line, but he caused problems for them on other occasions. Drew several fouls, including the one for the penalty
Tadic: 8. Looked dangerous throughout. Displayed energy and intelligence
Pelle: 7. Got better as the game went on. Clever footwork opened up space for others
Long: 6. Worked hard down the channels
Bertrand: A welcome addition for the tiring Targett
Arsenal - Sanchez (14)
Saints - Tadic (pen 20) Clyne (39)
Referee: Keith Stroud
Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin (Akpom 86), Chambers, Hayden, Coquelin, Diaby (Cazorla 66), Wilshere, Rosicky, Podolski, Campbell (Oxlade-Chamberlain 71), Sanchez
Subs not used: Gibbs, Mertesacker, Martinez, Ajayi
Saints: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Gardos, Targett (Bertrand 85), Wanyama, Schneiderlin, S Davis, Mane, Tadic (Long 73), Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, McCarthy, Reed, Cork, Mayuka