25/10/2014: Saints 1-0 Stoke
Saints moved up to 2nd in the Premier League with a win against Stoke. Ronald Koeman's men put in an accomplished display in the first half, but were sloppy after the break. On the balance of play it was still the right result.
Saints started the game more positively than they had done the previous week against Sunderland. The home side imposed themselves on proceedings from the off. Stoke stuck men behind the ball, but the ingenuity and pace offered by Dusan Tadic and Sadio Mane was too much for them. Aside from a brief five minute spell about 15 minutes in, Stoke offered virtually nothing as an attacking force.
Mane really stretched the Potters' defence, cutting inside from the left. He had the first major chance, dragging a shot just wide of the post. The Senegalese forward then turned provider for Graziano Pelle who scooped over inside the box. Saints moved the ball about intelligently and quickly throughout the first half. Tadic tested Asmir Begovic at the near post. Morgan Schneiderlin then hit the bar from a low corner. The pressure eventually told, with Saints taking a deserved 33 minute lead. Pelle hit the post from a set play, before Mane reacted quickly by planting the rebound high into the opposite corner. Saints continued to dominate possession up until half-time. Tadic had a couple of half chances to put the home side further ahead at the end of a satisfying 45 minutes.
Saints started the 2nd half brightly, with Pelle nodding against the underside of the bar. Stoke soon managed to assert themselves on the game a bit more. Mark Hughes' side stifled Saints, without really threatening too much in the final third. They had plenty of possession, but a lack of cutting edge in the final third meant very few chances were created.
Saints appeared to tire more and more as the minutes ticked away. As slack as the hosts were in possession, they still looked the more likely in front of goal. Pelle volleyed over, before Tadic saw his shot trickle wide following some good skill. Stoke didn't make much of the many set pieces they were presented with. On 76 Pelle headed wide from Tadic's corner. Saints were very lax during the last 20 minutes or so, but Stoke didn't quite have enough about them to take advantage.
Saints were made to work a lot harder for the win this week. They played some excellent football once again in the first half. Tadic and Mane were a constant threat going forward. Add Pelle to the mix and Saints have a bit of everything in the final third. We've not had nearly enough players with lightning pace down the years. Mane offers that and a lot more. He is also very intelligent. Against Stoke he made all the right decisions, and even swept up defensively. Stoke no doubt did their homework on Tadic after his exploits against Sunderland, but they were still unable to cope with him at times. He seems to be able to create chances out of practically nothing. Koeman may be tempted to make a couple of changes when the teams come up each other again on Wednesday, given the way Saints finished the game.
Forster: 6. Kicked the ball against a Stoke attacker early on and a slight lack of communication in the first half. Didn't have to make any major saves, but used his height well to claim a number of Stoke crosses in the second half
Clyne: 7. Not perfect, but still plenty of good moments at both ends of the pitch
Fonte: 6. A few good runs out from the back, but sloppy in possession at times.
Alderweireld: 7. A pretty comfortable afternoon. Made a few well timed challenges, and generally looked assured
Bertrand: 6. Bright early on, but like many others his performance dipped in the second half. Looked to be troubled with a knock
Schneiderlin: 8. Awesome in the first half. Like a magnet to the ball. Some great cross-field passes. A couple of horror moments at the start of the second half, but overall still decent defensively
Cork: 7. A couple of impressive interceptions. Never let Stoke get to grips with the ball in the middle of the park during the first half
Davis: 6. Linked play well in the first half, but far too wasteful after the interval
Tadic: 8. Heavily involved once again. Made a number of opportunities with some eye-catching skill. Did dip a little bit towards the end
Mane: 8.Got beyond his man with his pace on a number of occasions. Defensive work excellent. Lasted the pace longer than most other Saints players
Pelle: 7. Movement and hold up play very good. Just lacking that finishing touch
Wanyama: 6. A steady showing in the middle
Gardos: Not really involved the few minutes he was on the pitch
Saints - Mane (33)
Attendance: 30,017 (1,272 Stoke fans)
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Saints: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Alderweireld, Bertrand, Schneiderlin, Cork (Wanyama 62), S Davis (Gardos 89), Mane, Tadic, Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Yoshida, Reed, Long, Mayuka
Stoke: Begovic, Bardsley, Wilson, Shawcross, Pieters, Cameron, Adam (Diouf 53), NíZonzi, Victor Moses (Assaidi 79), Walters (Arnautovic 68), Crouch
Subs not used: Sorensen, Huth, Sidwell, Bojan