Cardiff recorded their first ever back-to-back Premier League win after an emotional clash at St. Marys.
With 67% of the possession and 14 shots on goal, Ralph Hasenhuttl can be rightfully disappointed with this week’s result as relegation candidates, Cardiff, have picked up a huge three points away to the Saints.
The game was goalless until the 69th minute, when Cardiff’s first corner of the game saw Calum Paterson nod Matt Ralls’ corner into the path of Sol Bamba, who dispatched the finish past Saints’ number one Alex McCarthy.
His marker, Oriol Romeu, was caught ball watching which allowed Bamba to make the run in behind and be left in enough space to take the chance. Paterson again caused problems for Southampton, as he did the return fixture where he scored the only goal, after Neil Warnock placed his trust in the centre half’s ability as a striker.
Southampton then thought they had rescued a point in the 90th minute, as Jack Stephens scored a very similar goal to the one conceded at the other end, tapping in at the back post to send St Mary’s into raptures.
James Ward-Prowse’s corner was met by Charlie Austin, which took the ball across the face of the Cardiff goal, which was then met at the back post by Stephens who made no doubt. After conceding the penalty in the last minute against Burnley, the Englishman must have thought he had made up for his mistake which ultimately cost his side two points.
However, Cardiff were not finished and provided some very late drama through Kenneth Zohore. The chance came after Jan Bednarek was unable to clear a cross. The poor clearance fell to Harry Arter, whose skewed shot landed at the feet of Victor Camarasa.
The Spaniard, who is currently on loan from Real Betis, laid the ball back to Zohore who placed the ball perfectly into the bottom right-hand corner of the net, hitting the very inside of the post on the way through.
Cardiff’s players, staff and away end were jubliant, as the Bluebirds collect a potentially crucial three points in their bid to beat the drop come May.
Cardiff’s Silver Lining
As a football fan, it would have been difficult not to hear about the tragic death of Emiliano Sala and the pilot, David Ibbotson. The heart-wrenching event is a horrible reminder that everything can change in the blink of an eye and has really put a lot of things into perspective for football fans around the world.
As much as this is a horrible event, Cardiff have been playing with emotion and are honouring Sala by recording two wins on the bounce for the first time in the club’s history in the Premier League.
Sala’s death has seemed to invigorate the players and their win today is huge in terms of the relegation battle as the win saw Cardiff lift themselves outside of the relegation zone and plant Southampton back in it. Neil Warnock will be thrilled with how his players have responded to their struggle in the relegation zone and the recent trauma of losing a teammate.
Southampton in Trouble
Before this game, the Saints were unbeaten in 2019, which considering their form at the beginning of the season was a fairly impressive stat. However, when looking deeper into the stat, it can be seen that the Saints have maybe not picked up as many points as perhaps they feel they should have.
Crystal Palace and Burnley were two games where Southampton had to win, and after picking up two points from these games, this fixture against Cardiff was vital for the Saints; evidently, it didn’t go to plan. Palace and Burnley both picked up points today, while Hasenhuttl’s side slipped down to 18th place.
Worrying times for Hasenhuttl indeed. Their upcoming fixtures don’t exactly give them a ray of hope either, with Spurs, Arsenal and United all coming within their next four. Hasenhuttl’s real test of nerve will come in these games. However, it may not all be doom and gloom as the fans and players now believe that they can stay up and the results will come with good performances, the Saints were just unlucky today.
Too Much Trust?
Southampton refrained from buying players in this January’s transfer window, and whether that was a decision made by the board or Hasenhuttl or both is unclear. However, it is a decision that the Saints may live to regret.
With their top scorer Danny Ings out injured again they are relying on Shane Long and Charlie Austin up top, and scoring goals for these two has been rare in the past couple of seasons. While Nathan Redmond is having a brilliant spell under Hasenhuttl, it is bold to assume that he, single-handedly, can win games for Southampton.
Yes, it is an admirable quality of a manager to have trust in the players that the team already possesses, but when injuries have heavily affected the squad and your main striker is prone to long term injuries, it more becomes a case of logical thinking and being smart, rather than admirably ‘trusting’ the team.
Yes, it is a respectable philosophy of Hasenhuttl’s, that bringing through the youth is important. However, when it comes to big pressure games and being firmly stuck in the relegation battle, experience would more than likely prevail over youth.
Lemina, Bertrand and Yoshida all coming back into the squad will provide a huge boost for the Saints as these are very experienced players, and having Yoshida at the back will give them that solidarity which Stephens does not seem to provide. The next few games for the Saints will be pivotal in their bid to avoid relegation.
Unsavoury scenes on the South Coast
The fans on the South Coast are known for being relatively pleasant as far as football fans go, but one incident has disgusted the people who witnessed it at St Marys.
Two Southampton fans were caught making aeroplane gestures towards the Cardiff fans, symbolising the plane that Emiliano Sala was in. The club found these two supporters and banned them for life which is a fitting punishment considering the utter disrespect shown towards the loss of a human being’s life.
If that was their brother, uncle, cousin or any other relation, I am sure that it wouldn’t be a laughing matter. Maybe karma did its work with Cardiff taking all three points, but all speculation aside, there is no place in football for such behaviour.