What a win!
The 5th of July 2020 is a day that I will remember for a long time; for starters it was my 20th birthday and I had already enjoyed a great day which included a superb formula 1 race before tucking into a delicious takeaway.
I then sat down in the evening to watch saints’ first ever live Premier League match on the BBC and it was also likely to be the only Saints competitive game that I would ever get the chance to watch on my birthday – and they certainly gave me a present to remember.
I’ll admit to being slightly concerned when the fixtures were announced, knowing that I could watch the side I love on the wrong end of a beating that had the potential to put a dampener on my personal celebrations.
Saints went into this match with the worst home form of anyone in the league and since the restart Manchester City have been scintillating against the likes of Arsenal, Burnley and Liverpool (who they beat by an aggregate score of 12-0).
However, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side would upset the odds in a performance and result that we haven’t seen on the south coast for many a year.
In truth, this was a scalp that’s been coming since November and while wins against Chelsea, Spurs and Leicester were impressive, the Saints had always just fallen short against the elite of Liverpool and Manchester City.
Even taking into account Ronald Koeman and Mauricio Pochettino’s spells in charge, this was one of the most committed performances I have ever seen from Southampton.
The determination and desire of every player to put their bodies on the line to protect the Saints goal may not have been bettered since they returned to the Premier League in 2012.
Alex McCarthy has the ability to have ‘one of those days’ where it looks like nothing will beat him – and this was one of them, firmly putting behind him the mistakes he made against Arsenal.
The centre-back pairing of Jan Bednarek and Jack Stephens has been one of the revelations of this campaign after another assured defensive showing on Sunday, their defensive qualities coupled with their ability and coolness on the ball (particularly Stephens) is a match made in heaven.
Ryan Bertrand often goes under the radar at left-back but the shift he put in at St Mary’s was incredible with the 30-year old covering so much ground to help out his teammates, both offensively and defensively.
Kyle Walker-Peters put in a third straight admirable showing at right-back and his introduction has given the side a superb balance and reliable options on both sides – Hasenhuttl would do very well to keep hold of him.
Oriol Romeu filled in superbly alongside the ever reliable and tenacious James Ward-Prowse, in fact ex-skipper Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who has been linked with a move away this summer, wasn’t missed.
The side should be able to take heart from that knowledge if Hojbjerg does eventually leave, and the club could use Walker-Peters as leverage in their negotiations with Spurs in order to get the young right-back on a permanent basis with Hojbjerg going the other way.
Nathan Redmond and Stuart Armstrong were two more who went the extra mile to make the team a nightmare for City to play against by continually harrying their opponents when on the ball.
Speaking of work rate, nobody epitomised this more than Danny Ings who was there at both ends of the pitch, as he so often is, to help ensure the victory.
And we finally get to Che Adams, the man who had gone almost the whole of his debut season without a goal, but who ended his duck in remarkable fashion.
Having clearly done his homework on City goalkeeper Ederson and with the appearance of a man who certainly wasn’t lacking in confidence despite his draught, Adams lobbed the ‘keeper from all of 40 yards out to give the hosts a shock lead.
There has rarely been a goal that was greeted with such jubilation from fans and players alike for a player who deserved that special moment.
The Southampton goal would then live a charmed life with Southampton’s performance all the more impressive given that City were still at their best and putting together some sumptuous passing moves around their attacking box.
Games against City in recent years have often been heartbreaking; late winners have so often denied Saints – including the 2-1 defeat at the Etihad earlier this season as well as twice in the 2017/18 campaign (in the 94th and 96th minutes respectively).
Another aspect that made this result and performance even more commendable is the fact that they didn’t have a lot to play for but still put in an unbelievable shift nonetheless, even without a crowd to get them through it.
These three points moved the side onto 43 for the season, mathematically securing their Premier League status for another year.
There’s still every possibility that the Saints can finish in the top-half of the table and if they can get 4 more points from the final 5 games, they would achieve their best points tally since the days of Koeman.
It would be both mightily impressive and somewhat surprising if Saints can keep up those fitness levels against Everton in just 4 days time, but whatever the result – Southampton fans now have a team they can be proud of.
Photos from Matt Watson Southampton FC