|Southampton 3 v 1 Leeds United
Saturday, 30th September 2023 Kick-off 12:30
Disappointing Leeds go down to Southampton
Saturday, 30th Sep 2023 21:00 by Tim Whelan
The recent form of the two sides coming into this game suggested that another Leeds win was the most likely result, but the game that unfolded was very different, as a resurgent Southampton sent us to our second league defeat of the season.
Daniel Farke kept faith with the side who demolished Watford last week, which meant that there was no place for Rodon, even though he was available again after his one-match ban. And Cresswell didn’t even make the bench, which hopefully wasn’t due to the rumours earlier in the week that he’s unhappy at his lack of game time.
I was really looking forward to this game, given Southampton’s recent run of poor results and rumblings of discontent among their fans. And I also thought that their pressing style of play was just the style that was ripe for us to exploit on the break, as in the Ipswich and Millwall games. But in all my time watching Leeds I can’t remember any match when the reality has fallen so far below what I was expecting to happen.
It was one thing for me to be complacent when I had no bearing on the outcome, but it’s quite possible that the team was also over-confident and expected an easy ride, so were caught cold by the explosive start that Southampton produced. Even in the two minutes before they scored I thought our defence was looking a bit casual as they fannied around playing out from the back.
The goal came when Cooper stepped up to play offside rather than tracking his man, so the through ball found Adam Armstrong clean through on goal. Farke would later claim it wouldn’t have passed the VAR test in the Premier League, but I thought Ampidu in the centre had just played Armstrong on. Once the forward had collected the ball Meslier went to ground a little too soon, giving Armstrong the opportunity to chip the ball over him and just inside the far post.
So ended our chance of getting through an entire calendar month without conceding a goal. A few on social media tonight have questioned the decision to stick with Cooper, not least because it disrupted the left-footer/right-footer partnership that Struijk had with Rodon. But probably we need either Cooper or Ayling on the field as captain, even though both these stalwarts of the club are getting past their best as defenders.
The goal gave the home side the lift they needed and set the tone for the rest of the game. Saints stayed on the front foot, and could have gone further in front when Meslier spilled a corner, but Smallbone sent the ball over the bar when he tried a difficult shot over his head.
We then produced a 15 minute spell when we looked like getting back into the game, the best chance coming when Rutter cut in from the right to make space to shoot from outside the box, but he sent it too close to Bazunu, so the keeper was able to beat the ball away. Another opportunity fell to Byram, but he proved that he’s not left-footed by screwing the ball badly wide from a good position.
There were also a couple of disappointing free kicks from Summerville, one going straight out of play. With Greenwood out on loan we urgently need to find someone else in the squad who can consistently deliver from set pieces, so we don’t keep wasting good opportunities. And our decent spell came to an end on 31 minutes when Southampton went down the other end to score their second goal.
Sulemana got to the byline, and picked out Smallbone, who had been able to run to the edge of the area with nobody tracking his run. For a second I thought he had scuffed his shot, but in fact he had placed it very precisely, and it went in off the inside of the far post. And four minutes later Sulemana was also the provider of the third goal, as he jinked his way across the edge of the box, before finding Armstrong with an inch-perfect ball.
Armstrong was in pretty much the same spot as for the first goal. This time Meslier might have got a touch on his shot and unfortunately Struijk certainly did, which knocked the ball into the net when it could have been creeping past the post. It could have been even worse for Leeds when a cross found Alcarez with a free header, and we’re lucky the chance didn’t fall to a taller man, as got underneath it and could only loop the ball over the bar.
Presumably Daniel Farke gave his team a bit of a rollocking at half time, and despite the scoreline things were just as lively on the concourse in the Leeds section, with a shirtless sing-song and dive around, and a fair amount of beer being thrown around. Pity anyone who had popped into the refreshment area in need of a quiet cuppa.
Unfortunately we didn’t get the storming comeback we might have hoped for after the break, though Leeds did have more of the possession, and in the 58th minute a goal from an unlikely source seemed to have given us a route back into the game. The ball came to Struijk from a corner with his back to goal. He flicked it up, got a lucky bounce off a defender, then steered it through the legs of the defenders surrounding him and past the unsighted Bazunu.
This gave us a lift, but as we pressed to try to reduce the deficit further the home side were content to fall back and protect their lead, adopting the sort of formation that this Leeds team finds difficult to break down. So to get another two goals back in the time that remained our play had to be spot on whenever a chance came, but that was not to be. James tried a couple of shots when he probably should have crossed, first a left foot effort that never had the power to trouble Bazunu, then one with his right that was well wide.
On 73 minutes Farke made the first of his substitutions, with Kamara and Summerville replaced by Gray and Anthony. With the latter being a Bournemouth player, I was hoping the south coast rivalry might give him an extra bit of incentive, if any were needed. Anthony took over free kick duty and his delivery from set pieces carried a bit more threat, so perhaps he should get the nod over Summerville from now on for that reason alone.
Meanwhile Piroe had been having a very quiet game, yet he had an excellent chance when a superb ball from Rutter picked him out on the edge of the box. He needed to match the first touch his manager showed in front of the dugout last week, but that was beyond him and the ball and the chance slipped away, with Bazunu in position once the Dutchman was able to take his shot.
Then Bamford came on in place of James to see if a bit more firepower could get the late goals we needed, with Rutter moving to the right to accommodate him. Bamford was sporting a very trim haircut and it was good to see he’d been to the barbers to look his best for his comeback, but unfortunately his performance didn’t match his follicle aesthetics. The only time I remember him touching the ball was when he’d already been given offside.
Rutter showed some neat touches in his new wide role, but when his trickery took him into a dangerous position on the byline he shot from a narrow angle rather than pulling back for a colleague, and Bazunu was able to make the save. Five minutes injury time were added, but the Saints were able to hold out and we had gone down to a very disappointing defeat.
After the game Daniel Farke told the press that with the overall balance of play we should have got something from the game, but Southampton were far more clinical with the chances whey were able to create. “Congratulations to Southampton, they were more effective in this game. With the statistics, we have won more or less each and every statistic, but the result is all that matters and the result is 3-1, so congratulations to them.”
“Our defensive behaviour was not spot on like in the last games, in the last four games we were there with four clean sheets in a row and we didn’t allow the opponents to have many chances. Today we needed to be more aware and sharper in the decisive moments. Apart from the goals, I can’t remember one situation where Illan Meslier had to make a save, so we didn’t allow them too much.”
Be that as it may, for too much of the game we weren’t quite at it at both ends of the pitch, and in central midfield we found it hard to match the intensity that Southampton showed, especially in the first half. This was comfortably our worst performance for a while, and we can’t afford to have too many more games like this if we’re going to close the gap on the leaders.
At least we have another game as soon as Wednesday to start to put things right, so let’s hope we can produce a much better display and get our promotion campaign back on track.
Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.
You need to login in order to post your comments
Leeds United Polls
[ Vote here ]