The goalless draw at St Mary’s will no doubt mean different things to different people, depending on how optimistic they are by nature, but what it boils down to is the Swans secured a hard fought Premier League away point and that will always be welcome.
Paul Clement’s side had to survive intense pressure throughout the game and new Saints manager Mauricio Pellegrino must be wondering how on Earth his side didn’t score at least one goal to take all three points. The simple answer to that is that his side simply wan’t clinical or accurate enough, and the closest they came was in the first 90 seconds when striker Gabbiadini contrived to shave the bar from inside the six yard box.
Just as profligate with his header was Tammy Abraham, the Swans’ new striker connecting with a super Wayne Routledge cross but directing his effort wide of the target.
Southampton had spurned another two chances in between those missed headers but neither Tadic or Redmond could hit the target, and it seemed to set the tone for the rest of a frustrating match.
Despite the early scares the Swans had started brightly enough, passing the ball around and involving Abraham and Ayew up front. It didn’t last though and Southampton slowly but surely got on top, dominating possession and creating chances through the hard running of Bertrand on one side and Redmond on the other.
In one four minute spell the Swans defence had to survive four good chances as Southampton turned the screw, Gabbiadini, Redmond and Ward-Prowse all off target whilst the latter saw a stinging drive take a double block off Mawson and then Olsson to prevent it hitting the back of the net.
Ward=Prowse was left further frustrated a few minutes later as Fabianski plucked his goal bound curling effort out of the air with a comfortable “one for the cameras” save.
At least there was plenty of character and determination on display from the men in black, Mawson and Fernandez in particular standing strong in the face of the Saints’ onslaught. Fernandez was having a strong game but…there’s always that rush of blood in him and this time it was a stupidly rash challenge through the back of Tadic right on the edge of the area, the Southampton man with his back to goal and nowhere to go with the ball anyway. Replays show a penalty would have been justified, but despite an unobstructed view from just a few yards referee Mike Jones chose to award nothing at all, neither a penalty or a free kick outside the box. On another day…!
Another ill-advised challenge, this time by Routledge, saw the Swans defence survive a free kick in a dangerous area during first half stoppage time; the opportunity was wasted and the Swans gratefully headed down the tunnel with a hard fought clean sheet.
After being on the ropes for most of the first half the Swans came out punching at the start of the second. Abraham showed just why he’s so highly rated with a delicious swivel inside the box to create an opening for himself but the effort on his weaker foot was blocked by Cedric Soares. Leroy Fer then blasted a volley wide from the edge of the box as the Swans looked to take the game to their hosts for a change.
It didn’t last.
The Saints soon wrested control back and never relinquished it again.
With the majority of possession to play with and acres of space to run into, Southampton poured forward, launching attack after attack and gaining a glut of corners as the Swans battled to repel all boarders.
A tiring Leon Britton was replaced with fifteen minutes left on the clock and eyebrows were raised that Jay Fulton was the man to come on rather than big signing Roque Mesa, however it appears that the former Los Palmas man picked up an injury during the warm up and had to take his place on the bench even though there was no way he could participate in the game.
Fulton’s arrival was never going to alter the flow of the game and so it proved as Southampton continued to pour forward. Tadic took a more direct route, thumping a longer distance effort towards goal, but again Fabiasnki was equal to the effort and he pushed it past the top yard of his left hand post to concede yet another corner.
From the resulting quadrant kick the Saints blew their biggest chance to break the deadlock. Orion Romeu flicked on the delivery and there was centre half Maya Yoshida in between defenders in the six yard box; with the goal at his mercy the big defender should have scored but instead he got a little too much on the ball and sent his header over the bar.
That chance seemed on 80 minutes seemed to spook Clement and he reacted by withdrawing striker Abraham and replacing him with a third centre half in the hulking shape of Kyle Bartley – a change that was met with a smattering of boos from the travelling Jack Army who seemed disappointed with the acceptance of a point with ten minutes still to play.
The reaction was harsh on Twitter too, and there was one tweet in particular that caught my eye: “Bartley on with plenty of time left for him to concede a penalty”. It so nearly came true as the big defender survived a hand ball scare in the box, raising his hands in an unnatural position as he blocked the ball coming in. Once again though referee Mike Jones was unmoved.
McBurnie replaced Routledge in the dying moments as the Saints tried desperately to snatch the goal their possession and shots tally suggested they deserved. The Swans though dug deep and gave everything to protect the clean sheet they’d worked hard for and when the final whistle came it was the away side that would be more satisfied with the goalless scoreline.
There’s as much cause for optimism as disappointment; our attacking game never got going and aside from the early effort from Tammy we barely threatened. But once again our much maligned (last season) defence stood firm and delivered a precious clean sheet and the point that went with it. That showed guts and character and it is something to build upon. Our bench showed up our serious lack of strength in depth but the returns of Llorente, Ki and Mesa, plus any additions from the almost certain Sigurdsson money should put that right. Taking points on days like this will be crucial in remaining in the Premier league and so the point is ultimately a satisfying one. However, we must do better in keeping the ball and stretching the opposition to take the pressure off what was an overworked back four yesterday. The Swansea City rollercoaster is on its tracks once more!