28/07/2014: Friendly Round-Up: Llagostera, Palamos, Schalke, Besiktas
With August fast approaching pre-season preparations are well underway. Saints travelled to Spain for two games against lowly opposition. A week of intense fitness work was followed up by victories against Llagostera and Palamos. Jay Rodriguez scored a brace in a 2-1 win over Llagostrea, taking advantage of some poor goalkeeping. Palamos were hammered 8-0 on 20th July. Guly Do Prado was the star of the show, netting a nine minute hatrick. Adam Lallana, Jason Puncheon, Rodriguez, Morgan Schneiderlin and Luke Shaw scored the others.
Saints 0-2 Schalke
The Schalke game was typically slow-paced. Saints had the first major chance on 11 minutes when Calum Chambers got to the byline to cross for Lambert, who headed straight at Timo Hildebrand. On 15 Dejan Lovren's mistimed header nearly let in his former Lyon teammate Michel Bastos, but the Brazilian lost his footing. Saints probably just about edged it in the first half, although neither side really tested each other that much. On 17 minutes Lloyd Isgrove out-sprinted his man on the counter, but took his 25 yard shot too early. Rodriguez had a chance on the half-hour mark following a Schalke mistake, but couldn't quite get the ball out of his feet. Puncheon had a stinging shot on 32, following a decent keep-ball session. Despite showcasing the attack talent of Julian Draxler and Tranquillo Barnetta, Schalke offered precious little going forward in the first half.
Saints pressed a little bit more during the second half, with substitutes Schneiderlin and Lallana adding extra energy. Schalke brought on Klass-Jan Huntelaar, who was involved instantly, firing a 48th minute header straight at Davis. The Dutchman made amends shortly after, taking advantage of hesitation between Jose Fonte and Davis to make it 1-0. Rickie Lambert really should have levelled on 61 minutes, blasting over with his left-foot from inside the area. Pochettino then made a host of changes, with six new players entering the fray. The Germans wrapped it up on 69, with Joel Matip beating Paulo Gazzaniga at the near post, following more casual defending. The game fizzled out towards the end. Lallana had an overhead kick blocked, and Saints had a succession of corners, but Pochettino's men never really look like they were capable of getting back in it.
Naturally Schalke were the stronger team. The Bundesliga side finished 4th last season and are a few weeks further on in their preparations. Saints looked ok, but a number of players didn't look up to speed. Kelvin Davis had little to do in the first half, but could have probably done better for the first goal. There appeared to be a bit of a mix up between him and Fonte, which was surprising, given how well Davis had communicated with the rest of the team throughout the match. He helped guide an edgy Chambers early on. The young right-back had his moments, but looked uncomfortable at times. Understandable given that it would have been the toughest test of his career to date. On the other side Shaw looked very composed, and was probably Saints' best player. Jos Hooiveld had little to do before he came off at half-time. Lovren made a couple of defensive mistakes (including one for the second goal), but looked comfortable on the ball. Steven Davis was a bit sloppy. Victor Wanyama looked rusty at first, but grew into his role, using his strength to shield the ball. Isgrove and Rodriguez didn't get on the ball much. Jason Puncheon showed the occasional glimpse of quality, but was otherwise fairly quiet too. Lambert's passing was very good. Second half sitter aside, the striker looked decent, much sharper than in previous pre-seasons. Cork kept the ball moving quickly after he came on. Fox looked comfortable in possession. Clyne made a couple of trademark sliding tackles. Fonte won't have done his cause any good with the mistake for the second goal. Gazzaniga might well have done better for the second goal too. Mayuka, Lallana and Ward-Prowse were fairly quiet.
Saints 3-1 Besiktas
Saints line-up: Boruc, Chambers (Wanyama 46), Fonte, Hooiveld (Lovren 70), Fox (Shaw 46), Cork, Schneiderlin (S Davis 58), Ward-Prowse (Isgrove 70), Guly (Lambert 46), Lallana (Puncheon 58), Rodriguez (Mayuaka 70)
The first half of the Besiktas encounter was tremendously dull. Saints once again displayed a few nerves at the back. A mix up on 8 minutes forced Artur Boruc into a clearance with a sliding boot. The Pole then pulled off a stunning save when Hugo Almeida headed unmarked from a free-kick. Saints played a patient build-up game with an interchangeable midfield. Pochettino's men did come into it a bit more towards the end of the half. Fox fired straight at the keeper on 37. Ward-Prowse then came agonisingly close with a free-kick.
Saints made a host of changes at half-time, with Jack Cork switching to right-back. Besiktas, roared on by their boisterous supporters started the second period brightly. On 47 Dentinho skimmed the crossbar. Moments later former Portsmouth midfielder Manuel Fernandes blasted a low drive straight at Boruc. The Southampton keeper then saved at his near post from Almeida on 53. The Turkish side would eventually break the deadlock on 61. Muhammed Demirci was allowed to drive forward before smashing an unstoppable 30-yarder into the top corner of the net. The game really livened up during the final 20 minutes. Emmanuel Mayuka was unfortunate to have a goal disallowed on 72. Three minutes later Saints were level. Lambert brought down Cork's free-kick, before thumping the ball past the keeper. Besiktas almost retook the lead instantly when Tomas Sivok's head flew just over the bar. They were made to pay for that miss within seconds, however. Mayuka brilliantly made it 2-1 with a half-volley on the edge of the area. Steven Davis then took advantage of a slack pass, running half the length of the pitch unchallenged before blasting the ball against the bar. The third goal would eventually arrive on 90 minutes. Saints completed another brilliant counter-attack, with Isgrove finishing Shaw's cutback.
It would be foolish to read too much into these games. None of them bore much resemblance to a regular league match. Getting the team fit and working on team shape seemed to be the main aim of the trip. For what it's worth, Saints did look better against Besiktas following the introducing of Puncheon, Mayuka and Isgrove, who supported Lambert in attack. Lambert had another decent outing, displaying great vision throughout. Guly looked sharp again, as did Mayuka, who had such a stop-start season last time out. Chambers once again showed signs of naivety at the back, but Isgrove looked very much at easy throughout. One would suspect things will start to take shape a bit more in the upcoming games against Celta Vigo and Real Sociedad, as Saints edge closer the start of the Premier League season.
Saints line-up vs. Llagostera
K Davis (Gazzaniga 46), Chambers (Clyne 46), Fonte (Stephens 46), Turnbull (Lovren 46), Fox (Shaw 46), Cork (Wanyama 46), Davis (Schneiderlin 46), Ward-Prowse (Isgrove 46), Puncheon (Lallana 46), Rodriguez (Ward-Prowse 68), Guly (Lambert 46)
Llagostera - Cano (61)
Saints - Rodriguez (28, 67)
Saints line-up vs. Palamos
Boruc (Gazzaniga 46), Chambers (Clyne 46), Fonte (Stephens 66), Lovren (Hooiveld 46), Fox (Shaw 46), Cork (Wanyama 46), Schneiderlin (Isgrove 66 (Turnbull 82)), Lallana (S Davis 46), Isgrove (Ward-Prowse 46), Puncheon (Guly 46), Lambert (Rodriguez 46)
Saints - Lallana (11), Puncheon (14), Schneiderlin (36), Rodriguez (60), Guly (63, 65 & 72), Shaw (85)
Saints line-up vs. Schalke
K Davis (Gazzaniga 64), Chambers (Clyne 64), Lovren, Hooiveld (Fonte 46), Luke Shaw (Fox 64), Wanyama (Cork 64), S Davis (Schneiderlin 46), Isgrove (Lallana 46), Puncheon, Rodriguez (Ward-Prowse 64), Lambert (Mayuaka 64)
Schalke - Huntelaar (58), Matip (69)
Saints line-up vs. Besiktas
Boruc, Chambers (Wanyama 46), Fonte, Hooiveld (Lovren 70), Fox (Shaw 46), Cork, Schneiderlin (S Davis 58), Ward-Prowse (Isgrove 70), Guly (Lambert 46), Lallana (Puncheon 58), Rodriguez (Mayuaka 70)
Besiktas - Demirci (62)
Saints - Lambert (75), Mayuka (78), Isgrove (90)