Saints 1-3 Bournemouth: First-half horror show costs Saints
Southampton’s wait for a first home Premier League win continued after going down 3-1 to a confident Bournemouth side on Friday night.
The damage was done in the first-half with the Cherries going into the break 2-0 up as well as having a third goal ruled out thanks to VAR.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side did pick up in the second-45 though and halved the deficit courtesy of a James Ward-Prowse penalty but failed to find the equaliser that they craved.
The visitor’s win was confirmed late on due to a defensive mix-up allowing Callum Wilson to slot the ball into an empty net.
This game was the first that I have been down to watch this season and was eagerly looking forward to seeing whether the progression in recent weeks could continue at St Mary’s.
Having not won either of their home games against Liverpool and Manchester United this campaign, this fixture represented a great opportunity to set that record straight.
Saints came into this meeting off the back of an away win at Sheffield United which moved the side into the top-half of the Premier League.
The Cherries also won their previous game 3-1 at home to Everton which meant that the winner of this clash would move up to third in the table.
The big talking point from a team selection point of view ahead of kick-off was the absence of Moussa Djenepo who scored the winner last Saturday while Nathan Redmond was predicted to return from his own ankle injury.
That is how the team-sheet panned out with last season’s player of the season replacing the Mali international while Kevin Danso returned from suspension, coming in for Maya Yoshida.
This change proved to come in for criticism after the first-period of the match and it was clear why. Hasenhuttl opted for a back-four and chose to play Cedric at left-back with Danso on the other side at right-back, both of which aren’t the players’ preferred positions.
The full-back position seems to be a bit of a blind spot for the gaffer who hasn’t come in for too much criticism since his arrival, but this does seem to be a sticking point for a number of fans.
Cedric, Kevin Danso, Ryan Bertrand, Yan Valery, Moussa Djenepo, James Ward-Prowse, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Jan Bednarek have all played at full-back/wing-back at some point during this season, despite only three of them being recognised in this role.
Bournemouth’s pacey and tricky attackers were causing numerous problems towards the start of this match and were most notably exploiting Danso down their left-hand side who looked extremely uncomfortable at times.
Not only this but Cedric was having his own problems, whenever the Portuguese defender got forward, he was forced to slow down the attack because he couldn’t cross first time with his left-foot.
He would be forced to cut inside in order to get it on his favoured side and although he had lots of good link-up play with Sofiane Boufal, it contributed to a lack of chances in the first-half.
After a reasonably quiet opening, Bournemouth broke the deadlock on the 10-minute mark thanks to a Nathan Ake header from a corner which bulleted into the back of the net just in front of the area of the stadium that I was sat in.
As it turned out, almost all of the action came at our side of the pitch although I would’ve liked to see more of the first-half up at the other end.
A couple of speculative efforts from Boufal and Ward-Prowse respectively failed to trouble Aaron Ramsdale in the Bournemouth goal and it was the visitors who thought they had got the second goal soon after.
Josh King found the back of the net and their players and fans were off to celebrate the goal as usual, from my view in the stadium I couldn’t see anything wrong with the goal so assumed that VAR would not get involved.
However, there was now a delay before the referee got the game underway and the longer it went on, the more I thought that this may not stand.
This was my first experience of being at a match that used the Video Assistant Referee so was keen to see how it would affect my viewing enjoyment.
I think the argument about VAR stopping people celebrating is often redundant as it didn’t stop the Bournemouth fans on this occasion and even allowed the Saints fans to celebrate the decision, in fact it even resulted in an even better atmosphere inside the stadium.
The best thing about it was the fact that they showed the offside call on the big screens which I didn’t think they were going to do but that fact that the fans were made aware that it was obviously offside eliminated the confusion amongst supporters.
There wasn’t much respite for Saints who did eventually concede another goal after an excellent flowing move from Howe’s side resulted in Harry Wilson finding the back of the net after the home defence was ran ragged once again.
Soon after that, with about 35 minutes on the clock, there was a switch at the back which led to Danso partnering Jannik Vestergaard at centre-back with Bednarek now playing in the unfamiliar right-back slot, demonstrating the manager’s disappointment at the first-half.
Half-time came with 0-2 the score and the side met with boos from the disgruntled home fans who hadn’t seen a home win since April, in fact this was arguably the worst half of football that we have seen since Hasenhuttl’s arrival.
The first Saints change was an obvious one for me as it was clear that we needed a right-footed right-back and left-footed left-back in order to get more balance in the side.
Bertrand was sent out in the break for a vigorous warm-up before being introduced for Danso, this led to Cedric moving over to his preferred right-back position in order for Bertrand to come in at left-back.
There had been rumours of a potential rift between the manager and the ex-Champions League winner, but we can only hope that isn’t the case following the departure of Matt Targett as one thing we learned yesterday is that we are much better with a recognised left-back.
The Saints came out firing for the second-period but had it all to do if they wanted to come away with a point that had looked so unlikely.
Less than 10 minutes after the break and Che Adams had won a penalty which looked slightly dubious from where I was sitting but was delighted when the ref awarded it and again when VAR confirmed it.
It had crossed my mind that Adams could take the spot-kick in order to get his first Southampton goal and get his confidence up but the decision for Prowsey to take it was vindicated when it hit the back of the net.
Bournemouth then had a penalty claim of their own which again caused a slight delay for VAR to check it and I had feared that the decision would go against us but was ultimately relived that we were still in the game.
Chances then came and went with Boufal, Ward-Prowse and Redmond all trying their luck but rarely creating really clear-cut chances.
Danny Ings and Stuart Armstrong had come on for Adams and Redmond which somewhat surprised me as we had now lost quite a bit of pace in our attacking line.
A loud cheer went round St Mary’s when four minutes of stoppage time was shown to try and galvanise the side but it was the Cherries who got the fourth goal of the match in the final minute.
A defensive mix-up and a rash Angus Gunn allowed Wilson in to score and give Bournemouth their first ever win in Southampton.
While many Cherries supporters tried to bill this match as a derby, this win meant a lot more for them than it would have for Saints if the roles were reversed.
The next match is the big one on Tuesday evening as the seven year wait for the south coast derby ends with a trip to Fratton Park in the League Cup to take on league one Portsmouth.
It didn’t take long for chants about Pompey to be belted out from Saints fans on Friday as it was clear what the priority was for many of the supporters with the most notable one being: ‘We’re coming for you’.
Excitement and nerves are the overriding emotions for me and with some tough games in the league on the horizon, we could do with a confidence and momentum builder to go along with the inevitable bragging rights.