21/11/2015: Saints 0-1 Stoke
Saints lost for the first time in two months, following a disappointing performance at home to Stoke. Ronald Koeman's side looked sloppy in possession from the outset and didn't offer enough quality or intensity to break down a well organised opponent. Saints are now 8th as a result of the defeat.
Sadio Mane started on the bench, having returned late from the international break with a knock. Shane Long came in on the right. The early stages of the game were fiercely contested in the middle of the park, with Stoke looking much sharper in possession. Saints were struggling to build any momentum going forward, but did create one excellent chance on 6, with Dusan Tadic shooting just wide on the turn.
Stoke took the lead on 10 minutes. Erik Pieters' cross evaded Victor Wanyama and Cedric, before Bojan Krkic nipped in ahead of Jose Fonte. Stoke then sat back, challenging Saints to break them down. Saints attempted to get the ball wide, with Tadic particularly involved down the left. The visitors packed the box out, making it difficult for Saints to do any damage from crosses. Cedric kneed the ball over before Fonte nodded wide from a set piece.
Koeman attempted to mix things up slightly, with the attacking players rotating positions. Long and Graziano Pelle played up front as a pair for a spell, and Tadic switched sides, but the improvement was only marginal. Tadic went on another good run before shooting wide on 37. Cedric then hammered the ball over. The Portuguese full-back had to have his head bandaged up for the fourth time this season just before half-time.
Stoke produced an excellent swift attacking move right at the start of the second-half. Xherdan Shaqiri firing over at the end of it. Saints once again saw quite a lot of the ball, but failed to do a lot with it. Tadic missed another chance on 52. Victor Wanyama started and finished a decent piece of play on 60, shooting just wide from distance.
The longer the game went on the more comfortable Stoke looked. Koeman threw everything at it, making three attacking substitutions. Sadio Mane notched Saints' only shot on target on 70. It was Stoke who looked the more likely to grab a second goal during the last 15 minutes. With Saints committing so many men forward, the visitors found plenty of gaps at the back. Glen Johnson set Marko Arnautovic away with a great crossfield ball on 77, only for the Austrian to clear the bar. Ibrahim Afellay missed another glorious opening a few moments later.
As bad as Saints were, they really should have been given the chance the level on 82 when Pelle was clearly fouled in the box by Philipp Wollscheid. The Italian then hit the ball wide of the near post, having been played in by Mane. Stoke almost finished it in stoppage time, only for Ryan Bertrand to clear Afellay's shot off the line. Wanyama then tried his luck from long range, but his effort was completely wayward.
A bad day at the office for Koeman and his side. Saints looked completely jaded and could have easily lost by a greater margin. The team looked slightly disorganised and lacked any real tempo going forward. Home form is still very much an issue. Apart from one or two occasions, we've not been able to impose our game on our opponents at St Mary's this season. Koeman will have to make further changes at Man City next week, with Pelle now suspended. It'll be interesting to see how he lines up his attack.
Stekelenburg: 6. Has been in solid form recently. Made a couple of decent stops
Cedric: 5. Got caught out defensively a few times. Delivery not the best either
Fonte: 6. Made a few decent runs out from the back and threatened at a couple of attacking set pieces
Van Dijk: 6. Comfortable under pressure
Bertrand: 5. Looked sloppy on the ball. Only saving grace was the goal-line clearance at the end
Wanyama: 6. A couple of slack passes, but generally used the ball well
Clasie: 6. Continues to improve. Showed a decent range of passing and skill to get himself out of a few tricky looking situations
Davis: 5. A passable midfield display
Tadic: 6. Some good individual skill, but couldn't quite find that killer final ball
Long: 4. Offered next to nothing going forward. Completely anonymous
Pelle: 5. A frustrating afternoon. Struggled to get involved in the game, and the few chances he did get he wasted
Mane: 6. Looked good on the ball, but only from deep. Not involved enough closer to goal
Ward-Prowse: 5. Unable to make any real impact on the game
Juanmi: Didn't really get involved in the game in the few minutes he was on
Stoke: Krkic (10)
Attendance: 30,039 (1,269 Stoke fans)
Referee: Lee Mason
Saints line-up: Stekelenburg, Cedric (Juanmi 85), Fonte, van Dijk, Bertrand, Wanyama, Clasie (Mane 64), S Davis (Ward-Prowse 72), Long, Tadic, Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Yoshida, Caulker, Romeu
Stoke line-up: Butland, Johnson, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters, Whelan, Adam, Shaqiri (Afellay 65), Arnautovic, Bojan (Cameron 71), Walters (Diouf 87)
Subs not used: Haugaard, Wilson, Ireland, Crouch