11/02/2014: Hull 0-1 Saints
Saints - Fonte (69)
Attendance: 23,670 (1,084 Saints fans)
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Saints recorded back to back away wins with an accomplished display at Hull. Mauricio Pochettino's men just about edged the first half, but completely dominated after the break. The win takes Saints up to 8th for 24 hours at least.
Saints were afforded plenty of space early on. Hull did nothing to stop the visitors playing through the middle of the pitch. Rickie Lambert hit the post after 4 minutes. Moments later Steven Davis played a killer through ball to Lambert, who this time was thwarted by Tigers keeper Steven Harper. The game was then held up for several minutes when Hull defender Paul McShane sustained an injury which would force him off the pitch. When play eventually resumed Jay Rodriguez had a header blocked from a corner.
Steve Bruce sent on George Boyd for McShane, and also reshuffled the shape of his side. Hull were a lot more compact after the change, and tested Saints with a couple of decent breaks. Shane Long headed on to the post from a deep cross, with Boyd firing the ball into the ground and over the bar on the rebound.
Saints reasserted control after that brief flurry of Hull chances, but played at a much slower tempo. With the hosts looking a lot more organised by this point, a more patient approach was required. A speculative 30 minute effort from Rodriguez came back off the woodwork. At the other end Jake Livermore cleared the bar from distance. Hull pressed a lot better at the end of the first half, with Saints finding it difficult to advance into their opponents half. Both sides had chances just prior to the break. Nikica Jelavic edged his way past Davis on the edge of the area before firing a weak effort straight at Artur Boruc. At the other end Luke Shaw had a cross pushed away by Harper.
Saints mixed it up really well in the second-half, dominating their opponents with a varied style of football. The visitors cut through Hull in the middle with some incisive passing, and also found joy on the flanks, with full-backs Calum Chambers and Shaw pushing forward to good effect. Chambers twice crossed for Rodriguez, who embarrassingly fluffed both opportunities. Lambert and Davis later combined, with the former shooting straight at Harper. Rodriguez was played through on goal by Lallana, but flagged offside.
Saints were having the better share of the play, but Hull were well organised and difficult to break down. The tigers frustrated the visitors for a long time, but eventually caved in on 69 minutes. Chambers' deep cross was headed downwards by Jose Fonte in the box. Harper managed to clear the ball away, and did so again when Lallana smashed the rebound towards goal. The ball then came back out towards Fonte, who guided it into the far post. Goal-line technology would prove that Fonte's effort had crossed the line, but it wasn't immediately obvious to everyone in the ground that it had. Just to make sure Lambert hammered the ball into the back of the net.
The last 20 minutes were fairly lively, with Saints looking the most dangerous side. Substitute Guly came agonisingly close to scoring his first Premier League goal, with Harper tipping away from Shaw's cross. Jack Cork rattled the post from distance just before stoppage time. Hull had a couple of half-chances, but were pretty limited in the final third. Boruc made a couple of decent saves, with Saints seeing out a slightly nervy last couple of minutes.
Another very good performance on the road. Saints displayed quality in attack, but really shone in defence, both collectively and as a unit. The panic from some fans about our supposed weakness in central defence has been misplaced. Maya Yoshida has proven he is very much capable of coming in and performing to the same level that Dejan Lovren was at for most of the season. What he lacks in physical gifts he more than makes up for in intelligence. There's really not much between Lovren, Yoshida and Fonte. It gives Pochettino a nice selection headache when they are all fit. Jos Hooiveld - while far from perfect - is still not as bad as many people say he is either. He was first choice for the 2nd half of last season, and more than held his own in victories over Manchester City and Chelsea. That's four centre backs who have performed well at Premier League level.
Further forward Calum Chambers continues to improve. A few weeks ago it seemed almost absurd that he would be considered a starter ahead of Nathaniel Clyne, and while he still might not be quite at the level of the former Palace man, Chambers has definitely closed the gap. His early season performances were steady, but he seemed to lack to confidence or the know-how to really take on his man and attack the right-flank. He's improved exponentially in that department recently, and looks capable of pushing on much further. It will be interesting to see how Pochettino manages the two right-backs. Both are incredible talents, and Saints should do all they can to keep hold of them.
Boruc: 7. A reassuring presence at the back. Made a few good saves at important times
Chambers: 7. Constantly pushing on as an auxiliary winger. Mostly kept it simple in the first-half, but much more effective after the break, providing a number of testing crosses
Fonte: 7. Strong in the air at the back, and another big goal at the other end
Yoshida: 8. Did everything right once again. Always in the right place at the right time
Shaw: 7. Made some great runs down the left, particularly towards the end of the game. Penned back a bit in the first-half. Booked for a rash challenge
Cork: 7. Not quite at the level of previous games, but tidy enough. So unlucky not to score his first competitive goal in a Saints shirt
Schneiderlin: 7. Kept things ticking with mostly short passing in the middle
Davis: 7. Occasionally a bit sloppy on the ball, but pretty good defensively. Often dropped very deep on the right to allow Chambers to push on
Lallana: 6. Ineffective in the first half. A few good moments after the break, but overall not one of the captain's more memorable performances
Lambert: 7. Some solid link-up play. Got himself into several good goal-scoring positions
Rodriguez: 6. A few decent bursts, but overall not really on it
Guly: Sent on to add more defensive cover on the left. Unlucky not to score
Ward-Prowse: A late participant. Made a few decent touches
Wanyama: Sent on in stoppage time to help see the game out