A frustrating Southampton display at St Mary’s saw them drop closer to the relegation zone with a 2-1 loss at the hands of Brighton.
After mixing up the team in midweek against Manchester city, Ralph Hasenhuttl reverted back to the side who beat Sheffield United last weekend. The only change came in goal, as Fraser Forster was preferred to usual no.1 Alex McCarthy. Youngster Nathan Tella once again partnered Che Adams up top with Danny Ings remaining sidelined with injury.
Even yet entertaining first half:
The first 45 minutes at St Mary’s showed how desperate both sides were to win this game. The game started with a high tempo and for much of the first half it was entertaining end to end football.
Southampton went behind early on after Brighton captain Lewis Dunk headed in powerfully at the near post from a corner. Questions must be asked of Ryan Bertrand who had been tasked with blocking off Dunk’s run but succeeded only in getting out-muscled as he ended up facing the wrong way as the ball was played in. It must also be noted that the old-school tactic of having a player on the goalposts when defending a corner would’ve saved the Saints from going behind here. But that is a rare sign in modern day football.
The Saints responded well to going behind. The likes of Takumi Minamino and Stuart Armstrong started getting on the ball in dangerous areas and causing problems for the Brighton defense. The Seagulls sat back and invited the pressure.
Just ten minutes after going behind, Southampton drew level. The ball was recycled back into the box by Stuart Armstrong after a corner. Ryan Bertrand made up for his previous error by winning the flick-on which fell into the path of the Che Adams and the striker made no mistakes in dispatching a powerful volley from close range. This was Adams’ third goal in as many games as he finally seems to be finding his scoring form.
With the scores level, both teams pushed for a crucial goal to put them ahead going into half time. The most clear-cut chance fell to Brighton. Great work down the left hand side by Dan Burn saw him exchange passes with Danny Welbeck before playing a perfect ball into the path of the man over in Pascal Gross. The midfielder was though on goal but never looked confident and his eventual shot was well saved by the foot of Fraser Forster. A let off for the Saints late in the half.
Saints lack energy in second half:
The second half felt like a completely different game to the end to end show fans were gifted with in the first. Southampton looked leggy and void of ideas, whilst Brighton looked solid and controlled the game.
Just before the hour mark, Leandro Trossard gave Brighton the lead. Wessex Scene man of the match Adam Lallana picked up the ball in the center of the park and fizzed it into the feet of Danny Welbeck. The striker skillfully played a first time ball, which split the Southampton defense wide open, into the path of his teammate Trossard who expertly dispatched into the top corner.
Worryingly the Southampton defense was breached far too easily yet again. The once strong partnership of Jan Bednarek and Jannik Vestergaard have lost any solidity and confidence they had to their play and teams are finding it all too easy to find routes to goal. Hasenhuttl must have identified this as a key concern going into the last 10 games of the season and, if left unsolved, this defensive problem could be what drags the Saints into a relegation battle.
After Brighton took the lead they managed to control the rest of the game in a professional manner. Southampton lacked energy and attacking creativity which meant the game just fizzled out. Brighton ran out 2-1 winners. Southampton have now not won at home since the remarkable win against Liverpool on 4th January.
Next up for the Saints is an FA cup quarter final against local side Bournemouth on Saturday. They, thankfully, don’t return to Premier League action until 3rd March in which they will be looking to return to form as they host Burnley.
Post match reaction:
Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl was understandably angry at his sides second half performance:
“In the second half the opponent wanted it more and we have to be self-critical about it because it was by far one of the worst games we have played this season.”
“We see that our game is far away from what is has been this season. I can remember we were one of the best home teams at the beginning of the season. What has happened in the second half, we have to ask the question ourselves.”
SOUTHAMPTON 1-2 Brighton (Dunk 16′, Trossard 56′) (Adams 27′)
Southampton: Forster, Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Bertrand, Armstrong (N’Lundulu 87′), Diallo, Ward-Prowse, Minamino (Redmond 65′), Tella (Djenepo 68′), Adams. Unused Subs: McCarthy, Stephens, Salisu, Ramsey, Ferry, Watts.
Brighton: Sanchez, Veltman, White, Dunk, Burn (Zeqiri 45′), Gross, Lallana, Bissouma, Trossard (Moder 86′), Welbeck (Propper 77′), Maupay. Unused subs: Alzate, Tau, Steele, Jahanbakhsh, Macallister, Izquierdo.
Wessex Scene Man of the Match: Adam Lallana (Brighton)
Referee: Stuart Attwell