26/10/2013: Saints 2-0 Fulham
Saints - Lambert (20) Rodriguez (42)
Referee: Andre Marriner
Saints cruised to another impressive win, with a dominant display over Fulham. Mauricio Pochettino's side put in a complete performance. It was a real team effort, with every single player pulling their weight. The three points lift Saints to third; making it the best ever start to a top flight season.
Fulham sat with eleven men behind the ball early on, and attempted to slow the tempo of the game at every given opportunity. Their plan to stifle the home side was undone very quickly, however. Saints moved the ball about with pace and precision throughout the opening 45. The home side set up slightly differently than they had done in previous games, with James Ward-Prowse coming in to sit on the right alongside fellow midfielders Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama. Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez were deployed as the attacking trio.
Saints' pressing yielded plenty of early opportunities. Lallana's fifth minute cross was palmed out, with Schneiderlin's follow up shot being cleared off the line. Moments later Lambert did very well to get away from his man in the penalty area before firing straight at Maarten Stekelenberg. Saints finally got their goal on the 20 minute mark. Rodriguez's corner was flicked on to the back post for Lambert to nod in from close range. Fulham continued to leave gaps at the back, without even remotely troubling Saints going forward. Rodriguez came close to scoring a fabulous individual goal. The forward embarked on a fine run into the penalty area, only to see his eventual shot tipped wide. Lambert nearly netted a second on 36, smashing against the post from just outside the box. The England international was at it again not long after, heading straight at Stekelenberg at the back post. Luke Shaw's follow up hit the side netting. Saints went into the break with a two goal advantage. Lallana brilliantly crossed on the turn, with Lambert heading across goal for Rodriguez, who was never going to miss from close range.
Fulham were beyond abysmal throughout, but Saints were outstanding. Things didn't change too much after the interval. The home side didn't create as many chances, but were just as dominant in possession. On 69 minutes Rodriguez's acrobatic effort flew agonisingly wide of the post. Fulham briefly gained control of the midfield during the final 20 minutes, but Pochettino quickly rectified the situation, bringing on Guly as an extra body in the centre of the pitch. Saints played the game out very comfortably, with Fulham creating virtually nothing worthwhile all evening. If you were being really harsh on Saints you could say we should have buried a few more chances, but how can you really grumble at such a majestic performance?
Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher said last Monday that Saints were the best coached side in Europe. On this evidence it's very difficult to argue. Pochettino's team is ridiculously well organised, with each man playing their role to near perfection. On the rare occasions someone does make a mistake there is usually someone else well placed to step in. That level of understanding comes from repeated hard work and practise on the training ground as well as a great team spirit. Pochettino and his staff deserve great credit for drilling this system into their players, while the players deserve credit for embracing it. At the moment it's difficult to pinpoint any real weaknesses within the current game-plan. We are creating chances and giving very little away at the other end. What more could you ask for?
Boruc: 6. Reduced to a mere spectator for most of the evening
Clyne: 8. Probably not a side on the planet he wouldn't look out of place in. Another faultless outing
Fonte: 7. Lovren rightly gets plenty of praise, but his Portuguese partner has been nearly as impressive this season. Composed and discipline throughout on this occasion too
Lovren: 7. One of the easiest games he will have all season, but did all that was required of him
Shaw: 7. Direct running created a few openings early on when Fulham were sitting very deep. Has played better, but still a decent enough performance
Ward-Prowse: 8. Another tireless display. Hard to believe he is still only 18. The real deal
Wanyama: 8. Growing into his role with every game. Much-maligned for his poor passing at the start of his Southampton tenure, but is improving in that department, as well as offering so much more in other areas.
Schneiderlin: 8. Vintage Schneiderlin. Dominated the midfield
Lambert: 8. Scored one, set the other up and some great link-up play throughout. Best display of the season by far
Lallana: 8. The captain has really stepped it up this season. Fulham struggled to cope with the 25 year old. One of many Saints players strongly pushing for an England call-up
Rodriguez: 8. When he is in this type of form there aren't many more exciting players to watch. Some unbelievable skill throughout. Unlucky not to add a few more goals to his tally
Guly: Solid cameo. Decent movement and passing
Cork: Only on for a matter of seconds