23/09/2015: MK Dons 0-6 Saints
Saints eased their way into the 4th round of the League Cup with a thumping win over MK Dons. Ronald Koeman's men effectively killed off the game inside the first 10 minutes, but managed to maintain the same tempo and quality going forward throughout. Saints will host Aston Villa at St Mary's in the next round.
Jay Rodriguez got the ball rolling on 5 minutes with an incredible solo effort. After powering through a couple of MK Dons defenders just past the halfway line Rodriguez found himself with space to run into. He advanced into the box, turned inside before slotting into the corner of the net.
MK were incredibly open, with Saints having little trouble finding space in the final third. Cedric Soares scooped the ball over after Shane Long had cut the ball back on the right. Oriol Romeu's swerving effort moments later was even closer. Saints were presented with another opportunity just seconds later, and this time they made it count. Sadio Mane intercepted a slack pass for the Dons full-back. He took on the same player in the box before calmly slotting past goalkeeper David Martin.
The Dons had a rare chance on 14, with Marteen Stekelenurg making a routine save from Carl Baker, who was afforded too much space 30 yards from goal. Juanmi then saw his deflected shot bounce straight to Martin. Saints continued to probe and by 25 they were 3-0 up. Long centred the ball to Mane, who found himself in plenty of space in the penalty area. The Senegalese forward turned his man, before calmly finishing into the corner of the net.
Saints remained in complete control going into half-time. The visitors continued to press fiercely as Rodriguez, Mane and Long linked-up to great effect. On 31 Martin tipped over from Juanmi. Steven Davis shot well wide a few minutes later, having made a good run forward.
Saints continued from where they had left off at the start of the second-half. At times the game felt like a glorified training session, but the eye-catching moves that the away side put together were still fun to watch. Rodriguez converted from the penalty spot on 48 after Long had been pushed over.
Saints had many more opportunities to stretch their lead even further. Virgil van Dijk went fairly close from a free-kick. On 61 Mane shot straight at Martin. Long fired just over the bar after being teed up by Gaston Ramirez on 66. The same two players started and finished Saints' fifth goal just a minute later. Juanmi was put through by Ramirez's long ball over the top. Kyle McFadzean attempted to cut out the Spaniard's cross, but inadvertently kicked the ball against Long and into the back of the net.
Long got his second on 75, latching onto Davis' through ball after beating the offside trap and finishing into the roof of the net. Rodriguez had a goal ruled out for offside late on and also headed wide at the back post with stoppage time approaching.
Saints almost certainly won't get an easier game than that all season. It was still a useful exercise for several reasons. A number of fringe players got the chance to impress and most didn't disappoint. Others like Ryan Bertrand and Ramirez were able to boost their match fitness. Even if the opposition weren't really up to much, it was nice to see some good attacking football away from home, something that's been lacking for some time.
Stekelenburg: 6. Had pretty much nothing to do
Cedric: 6. Not tested too much defensively. A couple of over-hit crosses, but generally linked up well further up on the right
Fonte: 6. A tad sluggish in the early going, but poor opposition meant he had time to feel his way into the game
van Dijk: 7. A couple of very minor errors in the first-half, but on the whole pretty good. Made some purposeful runs out from the back
Targett: 7. Defended as well as he has all season. Let very little get past him
Romeu: 7. Neat and tidy in midfield, which is all he really had to be
Davis: 7. Provided a couple of killer through balls
Mane: 9. Deadly in the penalty area. The Dons defenders were constantly bamboozled by his skill
Rodriguez: 8. Displayed some of his trademark aggressive running and sharp in front of goal
Juanmi: 6. Worked hard, but decision making often let him down.
Long: 8. Movement and link-up play very good
Bertrand: 7. Got another solid 45 minutes under his belt. Showed no signs of ring rust
Ramirez: 7. Great to have him back on the pitch. Some sublime skill and decent vision
Yoshida: An easy 15 minute cameo
Saints: Rodriguez (5, 48) Mane (10, 25) Long (67, 75)
Attendance: 10,189 (2,556 Saints fans)
Referee: Keith Stroud
MK Dons line-up: Martin, Hodson, McFadzean, Kay, Lewington, Aguza (Reeves 58), Poyet, Benavente (Hall 36), Baker, Powell, Church (Maynard 58)
Subs not used: Burns, Spence, Rasulo, Murphy
Saints line-up: Stekelenburg, Cedric, Fonte, van Dijk (Yoshida 76), Targett (Bertrand 55), Romeu, S Davis, Mane (Ramirez 65), Rodriguez, Juanmi, Long
Subs not used: K Davis, Wanyama, Ward-Prowse, Tadic