09/08/2014: Saints 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Saints ended their pre-season programme with a defeat to Bayer Leverkusen. Ronald Koeman's men showed flashes of quality here and there, but were second best for the most part.
Leverkusen started well, passing the ball with pace and precision. They were well organised at the other end too. Saints in contrast were a bit sluggish during the first 15 minutes or so. The home side struggled to win the midfield battle and there was very little cohesion going forward.
Maya Yoshida had the first major chance of the game, firing low at the keeper from a Dusan Tadic corner. Moments later Lloyd Isgrove had a shot blocked. The game started to swing in Saints' favour midway through the first half, but Leverkusen were still handy on the break. Karim Bellarabi curled wide following a swift counter. Keeper Bernd Leno was alert to the danger when James Ward-Prowse broke through on goal. Soon after that Leno tipped a deflected shot over.
The pace of the game slowed a bit during the start of the second half. Saints were once again bereft of any sort of creative spark; until Gaston Ramirez and Saphir Taider came on to replace Isgrove and James Ward-Prowse just past the hour. Five minutes before that Leverkusen had taken the lead. Graziano Pelle was rather unfortunate to turn the ball into his own net from a corner.
Saints looked more dynamic with Ramirez and Tadic on the pitch. The ball was spread about a bit more, as the home side started to create a few openings. On 70 minutes Tadic played a cross-field ball to Ramirez, who curled wide of the post from 25 yards. At the other end Ryan Bertrand prevented a second Leverkusen goal following a Yoshida mistake. Emmanuel Mayuka and Ramirez had half-chances before the final whistle, but Leverkusen were far too savvy at the back to let anything slip through.
It's always difficult to know how much to read into these games, but if they are anything to go by then Saints need a lot more about them to be competitive this season. There were some good individual performances, but that sense of attacking fluency that ran throughout the team at times last season appeared to be missing. Koeman's men resorted to aimless long balls up to Pelle far too often.
It's still very early days of course. It's practically a brand new team, which needs time to adapt. Players react differently in a more competitive environment, so who's to say whether this is a true reflection of where this team is at? If it is then it's very worrying, but there's still time to put it right.
Boruc: Didn't have a lot to do. A few dodgy clearances
Clyne: Steady as ever. Some clever pieces of play to get the better of his man
Fonte: Captain made nearly all the right decisions. Assured on the ball
Yoshida: Looked off the pace again. A couple of good tackles, but committed far too many errors overall
Bertrand: A solid outing. Used his pace to get forward a few times early on, but mainly reduced to defensive work
Wanyama: Took a while to get up to speed with the game. Put in a few good tackles
Ward-Prowse: A reasonable showing.
Davis: A decent range of passing. Always looking to get forward and support the attack. At fault for the goal conceded.
Tadic: Didn't have a lot of room to manoeuvre early on, but creating some openings later in the game.
Isgrove: Looked eager, but never really came close to opening up the Bayer defence
Pelle: A few good bits on hold up play, but not really involved in any goal-scoring opportunities. Not the best of starts so far this pre-season, but in the Italian's defence there hasn't been a lot going on around him
Taider: Looked decent after coming on. Good awareness, spread the ball about well
Ramirez: Added a bit more guile
Mayuka: Nearly created something for himself immediately after coming on, but last minute decision making a bit of a let down
Cork: Solid as ever
Bayer Leverkusen - Pelle OG (56)
Referee: Mike Jones
Saints: Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Bertrand, Wanyama (Mayuka 76), S Davis (Cork 76), Ward-Prowse (Taider 61), Tadic, Isgrove (Ramírez 61), Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Hooiveld, Reed, Targett, Stephens, McQueen
Bayer Leverkusen: Leno, Reinartz (Wendell 46), Spahic (Wollscheid 68), Son (Kiessling 46), Drmic (Brandt 46), Calhanoglu (Yurchenko 68), Boenisch (Hilbert 46), Toprak (Jedvaj 68), Donati (Rolfes 46), Castro (Oztunali 68), Bellarabi (Kruse 68)
Subs not used: Kresic