Southampton 2 (Aribo 72, Walker-Peters 81)
Leeds United 2 (Rodrigo 46, 60)
13th August 2022, Premier League.
I had this game down as a draw in my pre-match forecast so I could say the result was pretty much what I expected. However, the manner in which we capitulated in the final twenty minutes to snatch a draw from the jaws of certain victory gives me no satisfaction whatsoever as Leeds were coasting to a very handy second consecutive win until that final period. It leaves me still unsure of exactly what sort of a side we have; are we any good or not?
First things first; Southampton are a very poor side indeed, even worse than the Wolves side we saw last week. Leeds made hard work though of making their obvious superiority tell in a lacklustre sort of a first half that saw us fashion only two strikes on goal. That may in part have been down to the enforced substitution after half an hour that saw Dan James replace Patrick Bamford who continues to be a worry with his fitness. With No Joffy Gelhardt on the bench either, due we are told to a dead leg, once again the urgency and necessity of bringing in another Premier League quality striker seems obvious to me albeit seemingly not to the club! In the event, Dan James it was with the best Leeds effort, forcing a good save, and then Kristensen had a bundled effort from a corner kick that was scrambled away. All Saints had to show for their first half graft was a rasping shot that flew wide of the target although questions should be asked as to how Saints’ debutant Armel Bella Kotchap was allowed to run through the centre of our defence unchallenged. Nil – Nil at halftime.
For twenty-five minutes after the break, Leeds were coasting to victory. Rodrigo put us ahead seconds after the restart with another lovely finish at the near post flicking home a good low Jack Harrison cross right in front of us in the away section. It was yet another sign that the striker issue mentioned above could yet be solved by playing Rodrigo up top as he seems to have suddenly found a scoring streak this season. Leeds continued to dominate and went further ahead when Pascal Struijk rose at the near post to glance a header towards goal that Rodrigo finished on the line (or maybe after it, we await confirmation as to whether it is a Rodrigo goal or whether Pascal Struijk will be credited with it). 2 – 0 up and half an hour to go and Leeds should have wrapped this one up.
Then came a drinks break as another Southampton player made the most of a challenge to go down and perform a dying swan impression. As with Wolves last week, Southampton were no Saints this week as they did pretty much the same, trying to break the game up and reduce the ball in play time.
Suddenly, what appears to be our new Achilles heel struck twice in the space of ten minutes. First, we were opened up down our right flank with a couple of sharp flicks that left the Saints behind our back line. When the ball was played into the box there was Aribo, a second-half substitute, all alone, unmarked and with time to gather the ball, wriggle around Meslier and then fire past a couple of Leeds defenders on the line. It was the latest shocker of a goal in what is starting to look like a trend. Nine minutes later and we were undone on our left flank as a diagonal ball cut through us leaving Jack Harrison in two minds. Harrison failed to cut the ball out and Walker-Peters, then in the clear, drove the ball past Meslier from a tight angle. It looked like Leeds had just gone to sleep.
Jesse Marsch conceded after the game that maybe he’d underestimated the toll that the intense heat was taking on our players and maybe he should have twisted earlier. Whatever it was, the Southampton subs transformed their fortunes and it was only yet another first-class save from Illan Meslier in the dying minutes that prevented Southampton from getting all three points. It would have been a total injustice but we came that close to giving it all away.
So, a draw it was, just as I predicted despite many folks believing we would steamroll Saints to a 6th successive Premier League defeat and a second heavy defeat of the season. At 2 – 0 up that looked the most likely outcome but we let it slip and a very ordinary Southampton stole a point. Once again there can be little criticism of our midfield or finishing but defensively we have a lot of work to do to make ourselves less porous before Chelsea arrive at Elland Road next Sunday. If we continue to allow sides to get behind us so easily then the top sides in this season’s Prem will tear us to shreds and no amount of good work in the other two-thirds will secure a positive result. I genuinely am not sure where we rank in the quality stakes this season – I tend to feel that both Saints and Wolves are worse teams than we are and yet both could easily have stolen all the points in these first two games and we’d be looking at a distinctly different scenario.
As it is, four points is still a great haul albeit from two poor opponents. I’ll keep my powder dry again until I’ve seen how we deal with one of the Prem’s class acts next week!
S'pton Leeds U
Possession 42% 58%
Shots 14 13
On Target 4 5
Corners 2 5
Fouls 10 12