12/04/2014: Saints 0-1 Cardiff

Saints went down to a disappointing home defeat to Cardiff. The first 30 minutes looked fairly promising, but the hosts couldn't quite find a way through. Cardiff recovered from a shaky start, looking resolute and well organised throughout the second-half. Saints remain 8th.

The game experienced a free flowing start. Although they were fairly well drilled, there were signs of nerves within the Cardiff backline early on. Saints had a procession of chances during the opening half-hour. Calum Chambers had the first major opportunity from a header on 12. Rickie Lambert nodded harmlessly over from Gaston Ramirez's deep cross, before the Uruguayan himself had an effort cleared away. Adam Lallana had a low drive easily saved by David Marshall. Cardiff defended very deep throughout, and for all the attractive football on show, Saints struggled to create openings within clear shooting range. Cardiff attacked with caution, but did manage a couple of breaks. Frazier Campbell was often overmatched as the lone front-man, but Kim Bo-Kyung looked tidy in the middle as the source of Cardiff's most threatening counters. The half petered out towards the end, with the visitors gaining a bit more control of the centre of the pitch. Peter Whittingham tried to catch out Paulo Gazzaniga at his near post from a free-kick, but the Argentinian was alert to the danger.

The first 15 minutes of the second-half were fairly tense, with both teams building slowly. Jordan Mutch blasted straight at Gazzaniga following a good solo run. Lambert then headed over from a Chambers cross. Five minutes later Cardiff were ahead. The visitors pumped a free-kick into the box from deep on the left. Chambers' headed clearance fell straight to Juan Cala on the edge of the area, who let the ball bounce, before curling into the corner of the net. Mauricio Pochettino made immediate changes, with Sam Gallagher and Nathaniel Clyne coming on for the injured Ramirez and Chambers. Saints tried to hook crosses into the box, to little success. There was little urgency or inventiveness in the final third. On 77 Gallagher had a shot blocked by Marshall, following a neat dink over the top from Morgan Schneiderlin. Clyne later cut inside before testing the keeper with a stinging effort. Cardiff were well worthy of the three points in the end, and could have added a second towards the end of the game, with substitute Wilfred Zaha stretching the Southampton defence with a succession of rapid bursts.

A poor display of football from Saints. The injured Jay Rodriguez was certainly missed. Ramirez put in a decent shift in his absence, but without Rodriguez's direct running, Saints were lacking that spark in the attacking third. Saints are assured of a top 10 finish already, but it would be a real shame if the season fizzled out with more performances like this.

Attendance: 30,526 (2,404 Cardiff fans)

Match Ratings:

Gazzaniga: 6. Didn't do a lot wrong. Made a couple of decent saves, and got attacks going quickly with some swift distribution

Chambers: 5. Worked the channels ok, but poor headed clearance led to the Cardiff goal

Fonte: 5. Had it fairly easy early on, but struggled with Zaha's pace towards the end of the game. Passing not the best either

Lovren: 6. Didn't let a lot get past him. Pretty assured on the ball

Shaw: 5. Given plenty of space to push forward down the flank, but didn't use the ball well at all

Cork: 7. Covered a lot of ground, aiding the team at both ends of the pitch with some strong tackles

Schneiderlin: 6. Not quite at his best, but did manage to create of couple of half-chances

Davis: 6. One of Saints' better players. Linked play fairly well

Ramirez: 6. Not everything he tried came off, but still the most creative Saints player on the pitch. Spread the ball about quickly. The home side lacked any sort of spark in his absence

Lallana: 5. One of his quietest games all season. A few good moments early on, but stifled for the most part

Lambert: 5. Looked bright early on. Got himself into some good positions, but didn't really see much of the ball in the 2nd half

Substitutes:

Gallagher: 5. Got himself in a good position to test Marshall on one occasion, but not involved too much after that

Clyne: 6. Took a few minutes to find his feet, but did improve, opening up space with a couple of pacey runs forward

Guly: One dangerous looking through ball just evaded the reach of Gallagher