01/02/2015: Saints 0-1 Swansea
Saints' Champions League hopes were dealt a blow following a 1-0 defeat to Swansea. The home side saw a lot of the ball, but were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal. Ronald Koeman's side are now in 4th, with the chasing pack closing in.
Saints dominated the first-half. Swansea sat back, playing as a narrow and compact unit. The home side were usually forced to use the flanks or take the long option, with the Garry Monk's side making it difficult for them to play their way through. On 7 minutes James Ward-Prowse had one of the best chances of the afternoon, testing Lukas Fabianski from Nathaniel Clyne's cross. Swansea came close from a rare break on 14, with Bafetimbi Gomis firing just wide of Fraser Forster's near post.
Saints didn't have many more clear-cut openings, despite spending most of the first-half camped within 30 yards of Swansea's goal. Harrison Reed had a fairly weak shot go wide, before Pelle and Tadic notched up a couple of half chances. Eljero Elia and Ryan Bertrand provided a couple of dangerous crosses, but Saints couldn't quite find that final touch in the penalty area.
Saints remained on the front-foot at the start of the second half, but once again struggled to find a way through a packed Swansea box. The visitors looked the more dangerous on the few occasions they broke forward. Jonjo Shelvey was given far too much room to drive forward before smashing the ball against the post. Saints quickly raced up the other end, with Ward-Prowse heading straight at the keeper.
On 63 minutes Sadio Mane replaced Reed. Mane showed no signs of tiredness following his Africa Cup of Nations exploits, adding a bit more energy to Saints' attacks. He was involved with some good interchanges with Elia in and around the penalty area. On the other hand, Swansea got to grips with the midfield slightly more following Reed's departure.
The only goal of the game came almost out of nowhere. Shelvey made space for himself approximately 30 yards from goal before planting the ball into the corner of the net. Saints huffed and puffed during the last few minutes, but lacked composure where it mattered. Mane came closest on 87, with two quick fire efforts both blocked by Ashley Williams. To compound Saints' misery, Bertrand was sent off on 89 for hacking down Modou Barrow. It was a definite foul, but a yellow card would have probably sufficed. Pelle had one final chance in stoppage time, blazing over the bar.
A very disappointing performance and result. These are the type of games Saints should be winning if they are serious about challenging for a place in the top four. Swansea came with a good game plan and Saints had no answer. On the plus side Mane made his return and looked fairly bright. The Senegalese striker can help Saints solve some of their recent attacking problems, but an extra body up top on deadline day wouldn't go amiss either. A quick return to form is needed. The return of Morgan Schneiderlin, Victor Wanyama and Toby Alderweireld can't come some enough.
Forster: 5. A spectator for much of the game. Didn't deal well with the few things he did have to do
Clyne: 5. Surprisingly off colour. Really sloppy in possession
Fonte: 6. Looked comfortable, wasn't asked to do much at the back
Yoshida: 6. One minor mishap in the second half, but otherwise ok. Not troubled too often
Bertrand: 7. Red card overshadowed a fairly decent performance. Offered good support going forward, fizzing some tricky crosses into the box
Reed: 6. Solid defensive showing. Saints lost control of the midfield slightly after he went off
Davis: 6. Passable midfield display
Ward-Prowse: 6. Should have scored, but overall fairly decent. Timed his runs well and solid passing
Tadic: 5. A few bright moments in the first-half, but overall far too quiet
Elia: 7. Worked very hard and produced some sublime pieces of skill
Pelle: 6. A few good bits of hold up play, but quite tightly marked for the most part. Found it hard to break free
Mane: 6. Added a bit more spark to Saints' attack
Seager: League debut. Didn't have enough time to make an impact
Swansea - Shelvey (83)
Attendance - 30,943 (1,458 Swansea fans)
Referee - Michael Oliver
Saints: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Bertrand, Reed (Mane 63), S Davis, Ward-Prowse, Tadic, Elia (Seager 89), Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Targett, Gardos, Gape
Swansea: Fabianski, Naughton (Amat 82), Williams, Fernandez, Taylor, Fulton, Carroll, Shelvey, Dyer, Emnes (Barrow 16) (Barrow 90), Gomis
Subs not used: Tremmel, Grimes, Castro Oliveira, Tiendall