Sunday, 18 November 2012

Southampton 1 v 1 Swansea City

Saturday 10th November 2012
FA Premier League
St Mary's, Southampton
Admission: £30.00
Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 30,501
Match rating: 3

There was a double motivation in going to this game. First of all, it would be an opportunity to watch Swansea City - the club I followed closely when studying in Wales and who I still consider to be my "second club". It would also be an opportunity to tick off another league ground fairly close to home, which I had not previously visited.

St Mary's Stadium, which one passes closely by on the train approach into Southampton Central, is located about a twenty minute walk eastwards from the station, passing the city centre en route. As one tends to expect of newly built stadia, it is built amongst rather unattractive industrial buildings, although the stadium itself is impressive and sensibly built. Whilst its modern design and lack of individuality do not set the pulse racing, the stadium is very comfortable and roomy, with excellent views throughout and plenty of legroom, and the stadium has a nice symmetrical feel to it. It is also designed well to accommodate the level of support Southampton are likely to attract and make the most of the noise generated. The 76 page programme had a very attractive and classy cover, and the content inside did not disappoint, with plenty to read and few advertisements.

Coming into this game, Southampton were in dire straits in their first season back in the Premier League, rooted to the bottom of the table, having picked up just four points from their opening ten games, losing eight games in the process, and have picked up just one point from their last five league games, and were dumped out of the League Cup 0-3 by lower league Leeds United. After a successful debut season in the Premier League last season, when they finished in eleventh place Swansea City have had a solid start to this season, notwithstanding a change in manager from Liverpool bound Brendan Rodgers to Michael Laudrup and found themselves in eleventh place in the league with twelve points from ten games.

On a sunny afternoon, perhaps unsurprisingly given the current plight of the home team, the crowd was rather subdued with a rather cagey opening to the game on the field, and a pattern developed of Southampton probably playing the more direct, threatening football, although they were hampered by some poor passing and ball control, whilst Swansea played their usual brand of passing football without ever really threatening that they would score in the first half. A goalless halftime scoreline would not have been predicted before kick off, but it was a very fair reflection on first half proceedings.

In the second half, the home side really seemed to up the ante, as they took control of the game and it seemed only a matter of time before they would score. On 64 minutes, that goal finally came, when Rickie Lambert headed towards goal, and Morgan Schneiderlin chested the ball forward before heading past the onrushing keeper Gerhard Tremmel. The relief around the ground was palpable, with hopes raised of a priceless win raised. Southampton have had an awful defensive record so far this season, so it was little surprise that they gifted Swansea an equaliser just nine minutes after taking the lead. Southampton's young Argentinian goalkeeper Paolo Gazzaniga played an awkward pass out to his defender, Maya Yoshida, whose poor first touch allowed Nathan Dyer to take possession and race forward before dispatching a low shot past the keeper and into the net off the far post. Southampton still had chances to retake the lead during the rest of the game, although Swansea probably had the best chance of all to win the game, when only a last gasp tackle denied a tap in for substitute Itay Schechter. But in the end, it was a point apiece, which both sides will probably be happy with - although Southampton will probably kick themselves for not claiming the much needed three points, the one point they did get lifted them off the foot of the table, whilst Swansea picked up a fairly rare point on their travels, having previously lost three of their four away games this season.

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