02/08/2015: Saints 1-1 Espanyol
Saints closed out their pre-season programme with a fairly uneventful 1-1 draw with Espanyol at St Mary's. The home side were sloppy early on, but improved slightly as the game went on. Jay Rodriguez's excellent leveller was the definitive highlight of the contest.
Ronald Koeman made seven changes from the side that beat Vitesse three days earlier. Jose Fonte, Matt Target, Victor Wanyama and Graziano Pelle were the only survivors from Thursday night. Espanyol took the lead on 11 after Pelle and Shane Long had notched a couple of half-chances for Saints. Salva Sevilla found himself in acres of space on the right of the box, powering the ball through Kelvin Davis' grasp. James Ward-Prowse struck the ball just over the bar from distance shortly after. Pelle and Long then combined well, with the latter forcing a good save from Pau Lopez. The Espanyol keeper made a simple catch later in the half when Caulker headed on from a corner.
Saints made six changes at half-time. The home side continued to see a lot of the ball without doing too much with it in the attacking third. Juanmi shot well wide on 55 and Mane was unable to take down Rodriguez's ball over the top. It wasn't until 85 that the monotonous midfield play was broken. Rodriguez brilliantly finished into the corner of the net from well outside the area.
Coming after the first competitive game, this fixture was never going to produce much in the way of excitement or intensity. It did prove to be a useful exercise for at least a couple of the participants, however. It was great to see Rodriguez back on the scoresheet in his first match back at St Mary's since March 2014. The striker has done well in pre-season, all things considered, but clearly still needs time to get back to the level of fitness needed for competitive action. Easing him back in slowly is the most sensible course of action. Caulker also made his debut, and put in a reasonably assured performance. The former QPR man has a lot to prove following two consecutive relegations. He showed promise as a youngster, and will be working in a more stable environment than he was at QPR and Cardiff. It's a low risk, if slightly unimaginative deal. Elsewhere Cuco Martina probably had his best game in a Saints shirt to date. James Ward-Prowse spread the ball about well and Harrison Reed was also solid. Josh Debayo got a good 45 minutes under his belt, his first for the senior side at St Mary's.
Saints: Rodriguez (85)
Espanyol: Sevilla (11)
Referee: Michael Jones
Saints line-up: K Davis (Gazzaniga 46), Martina, Fonte (Yoshida 46), Caulker (McCarthy 78), Targett (Debayo 46), Wanyama (Reed 46), Ward-Prowse, Juanmi (McQueen 78), Long (Tadic 46), Rodriguez, Pelle (Mane 46)
Subs not used: Cedric, S Davis
Espanyol line-up: Lopez, Arbilla (Moreno 74), Duarte, Raillo (Moreno 62), Gonzalez, Lopez (Perez 62), Montanes (Canas 62), Sanchez, Caicedo (Burgui 74), Sevilla (Gonzalez 62), Alvarez
Subs not used: Parreno, Bardi, Lopez, Caballe, Alex