20/09/2014: Swansea 0-1 Saints
Saints moved up to 2nd in the table with a 1-0 win at Swansea. Ronald Koeman's men were poor in the first half, but saw things turn in their favour after the home side were reduced to ten men.
The first half was ill tempered, with little quality on show. The referee set the tone early on with a series of bookings. Saints' passing was off during the first 20 minutes in particular, with moves falling down before the final third. Swansea were invariably outnumbered when they got within shooting distance.
Wayne Routledge had the first clear opening on 28, clipping the bar, having beaten the offside trap. The home side used the full width of the pitch to stretch the game. They created a few openings with speculative long balls. Saints didn't muster a decent effort on goal until the 35th minute. Graziano Pelle shot low straight at Lukas Fabianski from Ryan Bertrand's low cross. Moments later Bertrand cleared off the line after Wilfried Bony had nodded on at a corner.
Bony's frustration was compounded soon after, when he was handed a second booking for slicing down Maya Yoshida. It was the correct decision. Bony had received his first yellow card for charging down the same player. Saints were inevitably stronger with the numerical advantage. The visitors struggled to get any sort of fluency together prior to the sending off, but were barely out of Swansea's half during the latter part of the first half and most of the second.
Saints dominated possession in the second half, but had to be patient when attempting to carve open the home side. Swansea showed virtually no ambition going forward once they had been reduced to 10. Routledge attempted a solo run at one point, but was easily snuffed out by the Southampton defence - which now included Florin Gardos - who had replaced Yoshida at half time. The Japanese defender came off slightly worse for wear following his battle with Bony, but was also on thin ice, after picking up a booking.
Saints struggled to replicate the high tempo attacking football that had caused Newcastle and West Ham so many problems in previous matches. There were chances, however. Dusan Tadic cut in and saw his shot deflected on to the roof of the net. On 58 Pelle headed straight at Fabianski from Clyne's cross, as Saints started to attack with greater purpose.
Pelle had another aerial effort tipped over on 62. Tadic's 71st minute free-kick beat the wall, but not Fabianksi. The deadlock was finally broken on 80. Pelle played substitute Victor Wanyama in on the right of the penalty area. The Kenyan used his body strength to see off the challenge of the Swansea defence, before poking the ball into the corner of the net.
Swansea did briefly threaten going forward immediately after the goal. Saints were a man up, but several players were starting to tire by this point. Fortunately Koeman's men soon regained control. Pelle had a couple of chances to wrap the game up in stoppage time. Steven Davis also shot over the bar when he had better options, but in the end it didn't matter. Saints clung on for another impressive three points.
Saints were far from their best, particularly during the first half. There's no doubt the sending off completely changed the complexion of the game. Swansea had been on top up until that moment, but had little option but to sit back with their main attacking outlet off the pitch. This allowed Saints a lot more time and space to create chances and dictate the pace of the game. It was hardly the greatest spectacle, but an important three points to keep the momentum going.
Forster: 6. Distribution mixed, but overall a fairly calming influence
Clyne: 7. Probably the only Saints player to do himself justice in the first half. Always in the right place at the right time at the back. Provided an attacking threat during the 2nd half
Fonte: 6. Made one brilliant slide challenge on Ki, but otherwise looked a bit sloppy in the first half. Better after the break
Yoshida: 5. Not quite as assured as in previous games. Drew the ire of Swansea fans for his clashes with Bony
Bertrand: 7. Made a couple of errors at the back early on, but made up for them with a goal line clearance. Constant direct running down the left gave the team more options in the attacking third
Schneiderlin: 7. Well positioned and tactically astute, but didn't use the ball anywhere near as well as he is capable of in the first half. Stepped it up in that department after the interval
Ward-Prowse: 6. Nature of the first half meant he spent more time chasing the ball than he did in possession. A few clever moments before coming off with a nasty looking injury
Cork: 6. Steady enough on the ball
Tadic: 7. Some tidy pieces of play on either flank. Particularly adept at holding on to the ball towards the end of the game, when ball retention was vital
Long: 6. Some misplaced passes early on. Provided some energy in spells. Looked to have picked up a knock during the final 15 minutes, but still battled hard
Pelle: 7. Held up the ball well in the first half. Much more involved in Swansea's penalty area in the 2nd. Had enough chances, but couldn't quite find that finishing touch. Looked a bit leggy towards the end
Gardos: 6. Barely tested defensively, but decent distribution
Davis: 6. Involved in a few good attacking moves
Wanyama: 7. Predictably strong in the tackle, and a great finish to seal the three points
Saints - Wanyama (80)
Referee: Jon Moss
Swansea: Fabianski, Rangel, Williams, Fernandez, Taylor, Ki(Emnes 85), Shelvey, Dyer (Montero 60), Routledge, Sigurdsson, Bony
Subs not used: Tremmel, Carroll, Gomis, Bartley, Richards
Saints: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida (Gardos 46), Bertrand, Schneiderlin, Ward-Prowse (Wanyama 69), Cork (S Davis 63), Long, Tadic, Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Targett, McQueen, Mayuka