27/09/2014: Saints 2-1 QPR
Saints made it six in a row with a hard-fought win over QPR. The home side were more than worthy of the three points, but up until the final whistle the game was still very much in the balance.
Saints played at a high pace throughout, but passed the ball about particularly quickly during the opening quarter of the game. QPR made little effort to attack, but were fairly well organised defensively, with most of their team sat behind the ball. Dusan Tadic shot against the post from the edge of the area on 19. The final ball was often a let-down, but Saints were still involved in some incisive play in the final third. Tadic, Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane all looked dangerous in spells.
Rangers' goalkeeper Rob Green was in decent form, taking command of his penalty area with a series of good stops. After a promising start, the game went flat for a while, before being reinvigorated just before the break. Morgan Schneiderlin was played in by Mane on the right of the box, but the Frenchman dragged his shot wide. QPR had a couple of late efforts on goal too. Niko Kranjcar fired wide, while Charlie Austin also went close.
Saints made a positive start to the second half. Tadic's early free-kick flew well over the bar. Mane also had an attempt, and Tadic scooped over before Ryan Bertrand gave the hosts the lead on 54 with a close range shot. Mane brilliantly picked out Bertrand's run into the penalty area with a backheel. Green got a hand to the ball, but couldn't keep out the full-back's near post effort.
That goal really opened the game up. QPR showed a lot more ambition going forward, with Kranjcar and substitute Junior Hoilett causing problems with some fine individual skill. Saints were still defending fairly well as a unit, and it took a piece of genius for the back four to be breached. Austin flicked the ball up just inside the penalty area with his back to goal before turning and firing in with his left foot past Fraser Forster.
Saints responded instantly, and were back ahead within two minutes. Shane Long started the move with a deep cross to the back post from the right. Tadic nodded on to Pelle, who flicked the ball up before executing an unstoppable bicycle kick. It was a special goal, worthy of winning any game.
Saints were made to work very hard for the three points. Rangers caused a few nervy moments within the Southampton penalty area, although they didn't create too many clear cut chances. The home side continued to look threatening on the counter. Steven Davis could have wrapped it up, only to see his long range effort crash off the bar. Krancjcar also rattled the woodwork at the other end from a free-kick. Long shot low straight at Green, before Tadic hit the post in stoppage time. QPR showed plenty of urgency, but couldn't quite find a way through.
As nail-biting as it was towards the end of the game, on reflection the final score probably did flatter QPR slightly. Saints maintained a high work-rate throughout, and produced some great football in the attacking third. There were a few minor defensive errors in the second half, but the team was fairly well set up as a unit for the most part. Saints have plenty of tougher tests to come, but the spirit and cohesion within the team right now give you the belief that this is more than just a flash in the pan. Saints won't be 2nd come the end of the season, but matching last season's points total and pushing for a Europa League spot is not an unrealistic aim.
Forster: 7. Not really called upon too many times, but did what he had to fairly well
Clyne: 7. A level below his best in the first half, but did enough good stuff overall. Picked up a stupid booking
Fonte: 7. Made some vital tackles and was generally solid throughout
Alderweireld: 7. Timing very good. Put himself about with some robust challenges too
Bertrand: 7. Showed his attacking capabilities once again, not just for the goal
Wanyama: 8. Stifled Rangers for long periods. Superb at winning the ball back
Schneiderlin: 7. Up and down in the first half, but improved later in the game. Particularly effective in breaking up play as QPR pushed for an equaliser during the last five minutes or so
Davis: 7. In the thick of it going forward. Kept the game flowing at a fast pace
Mane: 8. A real handful for the QPR defence. Created a number of openings with his pace and tricky footwork
Tadic: 7. That final pass and finishing touch wasn't always there, but his work rate never wavered and he was involved in many of Saints' best attacking moves
Pelle: 8. Deserves high praise for the goal alone. Played others in with his clever feet too
Long: 7. Made an instant impact, helping to set up the second. Just needs to improve his composure in front of goal
Cork: 5. Did ok, but not really at the level Wanyama was performing to
Targett: Premier League debut. Helped steady things down the left in the closing stages
Saints - Bertrand (54) Pelle (68)
QPR - Austin (66)
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Saints: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Alderweireld, Bertrand, Wanyama (Cork 69), Schneiderlin, S Davis, Mane (Long 68), Tadic (Targett 90), Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, McCarthy, Reed, Mayuka
QPR: Green, Isla, Caulker, Ferdinand, Traore, Fer, Sandro (Henry 11), Kranjcar, Phillips (Hoilett 58), Vargas (Zamora 77), Austin
Subs not used: McCarthy, Hill, Onuoha, Dunne