Sheffield United 0-1 Southampton: 3 ups, 3 downs
Southampton made it four games unbeaten in all competitions with a 1-0 win against Sheffield United in a lively encounter.
Not for the first time this season, a bit of magic from Moussa Djenepo helped secure the three points that lifts the side into the top-half of the Premier League.
Even when the score was 0-0, it was a very entertaining clash with both sides disappointed to go into half-time without scoring multiple goals.
Che Adams had a hat-trick of chances across the match including a strike that hit the post and a header which was well saved by Dean Henderson.
United also had opportunities but lacked a clinical finish to break the deadlock themselves. They did find the back of the net soon after half-time when Oli McBurnie headed home from a corner before VAR ruled it out with John Egan adjudged to have been offside while attempting to head it himself.
Djenepo scored midway through the second-half with a magnificent solo goal that saw the Mali international dribble through the United defence before coolly slotting home.
Saints were living dangerously after that and had Angus Gunn and some poor finishing to thank for the score staying at 0-1.
Their lives were made easier when Billy Sharp got himself sent off with around five minutes to go for a rash challenge on Stuart Armstrong.
This victory at Bramall Lane meant that Saints won a third straight away game without conceding a goal for the first time since 1986 after previous 1-0 wins at Brighton and Fulham.
Here are my 3 ups and 3 downs from today’s match:
UP: Moussa Djenepo
Need I say anymore?
Djenepo appears to have been somewhat of a revelation this season, he made an instant impact to score the excellent winner against Brighton and sparked Saints into life once again.
My first thoughts when I saw him play after coming on in the defeat to Liverpool is that he is a bit of a livewire who was rather erratic with the potential to grow into a real talent.
My opinion on that hasn’t really changed although you can already see some of that star quality coming through and making some more sensible decisions with the ball.
He started the game against Sheffield United at left wing-back which caught most people by surprise, me included.
Djenepo played there for the first 40 minutes and showed signs of threatening down the left but was often caught exposed going the other way.
George Baldock was getting a lot of joy down that side with gaps being left between him and Vestergaard who played on the left of the back-three.
However, Ralph Hasenhuttl changed that by moving Cedric over from right wing-back and dropping James Ward-Prowse to play in the slot vacated by the Portuguese international.
This suited Djenepo a lot more as he was now being utilised as an attacker with little defensive responsibilities and a license to run at the United defence.
Then came the goal, the 21-year old picked the ball up from just outside the box, weaved his way through the Sheffield defence and into the box before a calm finish into the bottom corner of the net.
It was the spark that Saints needed, and you now get the feeling that Hasenhuttl has a player that he can call upon that can create something from very little by having an edge in the final third which the team has struggled with for some time.
DOWN: Left-back cover
I’ve already spoken about Djenepo being played at left wing-back from the start of the game after coming in for the suspended Kevin Danso who played at left-back for the last couple of games.
When Matt Targett was sold to Aston Villa for £17 million in the summer, it was assumed that Ryan Bertrand would stay as first-choice and Jake Vokins would be promoted from the academy to be the back-up.
However, Vokins has continued to play for the under-23’s and Bertrand has had his own problems which have led to a hole in that area.
Hasenhuttl has dismissed suggestions about a possible disagreement with Bertrand which makes us assume that he is still recovering from an ankle injury that initially sidelined him against Brighton.
The 30-year old was left on the bench at Bramall Lane with Hasenhuttl preferring to play an unorthodox left wing-back instead in Djenepo.
That didn’t really work so Cedric was moved to play there after about 40 minutes with Ward-Prowse dropping back to play the same position on the right.
Cedric has already revealed that he doesn’t overly enjoy playing on the left which begs the question as to why the club didn’t replace Targett in the summer.
It will be interesting to see what the manager opts for against Bournemouth on Friday night with Danso returning and Bertrand another week closer to being fully fit, we should finally get some answers about the left-back pecking order.
It’s safe to say that VAR has divided opinions so far this season and I’m sure will continue to do so over the course of the season.
The main question mark about the Video Assistant Referee has been the high threshold of a clear and obvious error that has led to not many decisions being overruled.
However, the VAR was used as it was supposed to for today’s victory after intervening to disallow the Sheffield United opener.
It came from a free-kick from the right which was whipped into the far post for Oli McBurnie to head the ball past Gunn in the Saints goal.
McBurnie appeared to be onside and the goal would likely have stood if that was the full story. However, John Egan was in a clear offside position and lunged in for a header himself before the ball reached McBurnie.
He was clearly interfering with the play and the goal was correctly ruled out despite it being initially given by the on-field officials.
This showed how it should be used with the correct decision being made and preventing one side being on the wrong end of a mistake from the referee.
The VAR also confirmed Billy Sharp’s red card and didn’t give a penalty for a handball against Ward-Prowse, both of which appeared to be the right decision.
DOWN: Billy Sharp
This is another topic that will draw up a variety of opinions and I have already seen disagreements on whether the referee came to the correct conclusion.
With five minutes of regulation time remaining and with Saints holding onto their 1-0 lead, Sheffield striker Billy Sharp went in for a rash challenge on Stuart Armstrong.
There was little hesitation in Lee Mason brandishing a straight red card and giving Sharp his marching orders.
It had shades of Florin Andone’s sending off in the win over Brighton although it’s hard to get a more reckless tackle than his.
The arguments I’ve seen from some people, including Troy Deeney on Soccer Saturday, is that it wasn’t intentional from Sharp and that he could therefore get away with it.
It doesn’t matter if it was intentional or not, if there was firmer contact then it could have been a leg breaker in the same way that Andone’s tackle on Valery was.
What was just as bad was Sharp’s reluctance to leave the pitch and his firm belief that it was a fair tackle that didn’t deserve him to be sent off, a moment to forget for the Blades legend.
UP: Angus Gunn
Gunn had a questionable start to the season after letting in a very preventable goal against Burnley and there were a few fans who thought Alex McCarthy should be reinstated between the sticks.
His performances have steadily improved since though and made numerous saves in the defeat to Liverpool before keeping his first clean sheet of the season at the Amex stadium.
He then played a big part in securing a point against Manchester United after keeping their attackers at bay while playing with 10-men.
Gunn was impressive again at Bramall Lane and helped make it three away clean sheets in a row thanks to a couple of pivotal saves.
The 23-year old made a big stop to deny David McGoldrick with the score still at 0-0 and made another one later on to protect the Saints lead.
There is now very little doubt that Gunn is the deserving number one and could be for many years to come.
DOWN: Jannik Vestergaard
From hero to zero for the giant Danish defender.
Vestergaard was one of my up’s against Manchester United thanks to his first Southampton goal and an overall impressive defensive performance.
However this was back to what we’ve seen far too much of, he was slightly erratic and a bit of a liability today and was lucky that his errors didn’t lead to a goal.
After playing as part of a back-four a fortnight ago where he impressed alongside Jan Bednarek, he was back in a back-five this weekend and played on the left-hand side of the central defenders.
Admittedly he wasn’t helped by having Djenepo as the wing-back on his side which led to Vestergaard having little support.
Although that doesn’t excuse some of his mistakes where he gifted possession to the opposition and often misjudged the flight of the ball.
Hopefully, we will see Vestergaard back to his best against Bournemouth as opposed to the more sloppy side of him that we saw today.