Saints fall to frustrating defeat

By SFC Media time Thu 25 Jun Saints v Arsenal
Photo by Matt Watson | Stuart Armstrong
Thu 25 Jun 6PM
Premier League
Southampton
0
Arsenal
0
Venue: St Mary's Stadium | Attendance: 0

Southampton were punished for their mistakes on a scorching evening at St Mary’s, where Arsenal ran out 2-0 winners in the Premier League.

Youngster Eddie Nketiah intercepted a stray pass from goalkeeper Alex McCarthy to race through and open the scoring in the 20th minute, before Joe Willock pounced to net a late clincher.

Saints were threatening an equaliser more and more as the second half wore on, with substitute Shane Long coming closest to levelling the scores, but Jack Stephens was shown a late red card and Willock was in the right place to profit when McCarthy could not hold Alexandre Lacazette's driven shot. 

Ralph Hasenhüttl named an unchanged team following Saints’ successful restart at Norwich. Hardly surprising, given his side’s accomplished display and with six days between games, but the boss would have been forgiven for having one eye on the sharper turnaround before Sunday’s trip to Watford.

Arsenal were looking to bounce back from successive defeats and avoid Saints joining them on 40 points, as they faced their third away game in a row, in 30-degree heat on the south coast.

Saints enjoyed much of the early possession, but it was Arsenal who had the ball in the net after just eight minutes, only for Nketiah’s tap-in to be ruled out for offside against his supplier, Bukayo Saka.

Then top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang escaped down the left, latching on to a ball in behind the home defence and going eye to eye with McCarthy before rifling a shot against the underside of the crossbar, via the merest of touches from the goalkeeper.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JUNE 25: (L) Yan Valery and (R) Bukoyo Saka during the Premier League match between Southampton FC and Arsenal FC at St Mary's Stadium on March 21, 2020 in Southampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Yan Valery competes for possession with Bukayo Saka

Back came Saints as Stuart Armstrong sent a rising half-volley whistling wide, before Danny Ings tried to take on the entire visiting defence only to be crowded out in the box.

The visitors had shown their threat but it was a gift from their hosts that allowed Nketiah to make the breakthrough in the 21st minute, as the young striker intercepted McCarthy’s attempted pass into midfield and sprinted through to score the easiest goal of his fledgling career.

Saints set about putting things right after the first scheduled drinks break, as Ings’s sublime touch out of the sky helped set up Ryan Bertrand to drill in a low cross that only just eluded the sliding Armstrong.

Now with a lead to their name, Arsenal were able to wait for their moments to counter-attack, but Nketiah was unable to prod the ball through for the lurking Aubameyang who would have had a clean run on goal.

Hasenhüttl wasted no time in making changes, as Saints re-emerged for the second half with Kyle Walker-Peters and Long on the field, with young duo Yan Valery and Michael Obafemi the men sacrificed. 

It’s worth noting this still left the manager with three further substitutions up his sleeve and three separate intervals to use them, under the current rules.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JUNE 25: James Ward-Prowse during the Premier League match between Southampton FC and Arsenal FC at St Mary's Stadium on March 21, 2020 in Southampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
James Ward-Prowse again captained Saints on their return to St Mary's

Straightaway there was more zip about Saints, as Nathan Redmond combined with Bertrand, whose cross was laid back for James Ward-Prowse to fire over, before Armstrong shot into the grateful grasp of Emiliano Martinez.

There were occasional moments of alarm at the other end, chiefly when Jan Bednarek slid in to intercept Aubameyang’s teasing ball across goal and nearly sent the ball past McCarthy, before Long and Ings teamed up for the first time when the latter volleyed over.

Redmond then blasted a clean strike into the side-netting, as Saints showed more promising signs without sufficiently testing Martinez.

That was about to change when Long peeled away to take Stephens’s long pass neatly in his stride, connecting sweetly on his left foot to drive the ball across the keeper, who needed two attempts to smother the ball as Ings sensed a chance on the rebound.

But Stephens's desperation in trying to prevent Aubameyang charging through resulted in a red card for denying a goalscoring opportunity five minutes from time.

Cue a free-kick from which substitute Lacazette was denied once by the wall and once by McCarthy, only for the ball to slip out into the path of Willock, who wrapped up the points.

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Head to Head Stats

Arsenal
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