Southampton were left scratching their heads after surrendering a 2-0 lead against fellow south-coast side Brighton on Monday night. After a stunning strike from Pierre Hojbjerg and a penalty from in-form Danny Ings, Saints were 25 minutes away from their first back-to-back wins in over a year but following an almost instant reply from Brighton and a late penalty meant that Southampton are still yet to win at home this season.
The first half an hour of the game was, to put it lightly, rather dull with neither side creating a clear cut chance, however Southampton enjoyed most of the ball and were able to link up some beautiful play; some fans even suggested that it was reminiscent of the Potchettino and Koeman days!
And Southampton’s dominance paid off as, from virtually nothing, the hosts, unchanged for a third consecutive league game, took the lead with an outrageous strike from Pierre Hojbjerg, who recorded his second goal in as many games! The effort, which came from 35 yards (the longest distance in the Premier League so far this season) was a spectacle in terms of technique, with the Dane almost swiping his foot across the ball to direct it past Brighton keeper Matt Ryan.
What was also impressive with the goal was the build up to it, losing the ball and seeing Mario Lemina racing to recover the ball and charge into space left by the chasing Brighton midfield!
There wasn’t much else to write home about in the first-half but there’s probably little argument that it was undeserved that Saints went into the break with the lead.
This did mean, however, that it’d be likely that Brighton would come out of the tunnel looking to start quickly and that’s exactly what happened, to the extent that some Southampton players did look nervous for the first ten minutes or so. Playing with nervousness at home seems to still be a massive problem for the side, whether that’s due to some fans getting on the players’ backs, hangover from last season or something else it instantly needs to be addressed as home form is a major weakness and has been for almost two years.
But it looked as though Saints would manage to record a rare home victory as Danny Ings showed some great individual skill to shove off one Brighton defender, get into the box and be taken down clumsily by Brighton left-back Gaetan Bong to win a penalty. Of course, it was the local lad who picked up the ball instantly and planted it on the spot, looking to get his first goal in front of the St.Mary’s faithful and that’s exactly what happened, a calm placement to the right of Ryan which seemed as if Brighton had a mountain to climb and Southampton were on their way to another victory!
What couldn’t happen though was conceding soon after and that’s exactly what did happen. From virtually nothing, Brighton won a free-kick on the sideline, far from the 18-yard box, and the ball in was met by the head of defender Shane Duffy for his second of the season. Credit to Knockaert though as the ball in was sublime, what was disappointing though was the fact that the defender was left unmarked when we have great height, especially in our defence.
The game was rather tight following the Brighton goal which, on one side, was a good thing as Southampton were shutting out the visitors but it also meant that they weren’t killing the game off!
And Hughes’ side were made to pay for not finishing off the game as Brighton were awarded a penalty in the 90th minute after substitute James Ward-Prowse looked to push goalscorer Shane Duffy in the back following a corner. And it was of course that man again Glenn Murray who converted the spot kick and left thousands of fans gutted that there is still mental frailness within the side when playing at home and that two points were dropped.
Of course, there are positives to take from the game but our home form has become so bad in terms of results that we may be better off playing the top six at home as we won’t feel any pressure to get a result! We’re the masters of our own downfall given that all we had to do was keep the ball and try to get a third goal to shut down the game but, it is what it is, and we now go into a run of three tough games.
Saints travel to Anfield on Saturday in what will no doubt be an incredibly tough test as Liverpool are yet to drop points in the league this season, adding to the disappointment over the failure to pick up three points on Monday night.