28/10/2015: Saints 2-1 Aston Villa
Saints progressed to the quarter-finals of the League Cup, with a fairly comfortable win over Aston Villa. Ronald Koeman's side struggled to create chances in the 1st half, but never really looked like letting Villa back into it after going ahead. Saints will take on Liverpool in the next round on Wednesday 2nd December.
Saints enjoyed a lot of possession in the first half, but struggled to get numbers into the final third. With seven changes, there was naturally less cohesion within the team than usual. Villa were quite compact and pressed well, but offered little threat going forward, outside the odd set piece.
Chances were few and far between during the opening 45. Maarten Stekelenburg made a decent save from Leandro Bacuna on 35. Villa then had a series of corners. Ciaran Clark headed wide, before Rudy Gestede headed down at Stekelenburg. Saints' only real first-half chance came from a free-kick, with Gaston Ramirez shooting wide.
Saints upped the tempo slightly at the start of the second-half. Graziano Pelle shot wide on 49 after combining with Oriol Romeu. On 51 Saints got the goal that never really looked like coming previously. Maya Yoshida completed a one-two with Ramirez before firing low and into the bottom corner from 25 yards.
On 62 Ashley Westwood had a side-foot shot saved after Victor Wanyama had given the ball away in midfield. Gabby Agbonlahor tested Stekelenburg a few minutes later. Saints looked more of a threat going forward following the introduction of Steven Davis and Dusan Tadic. Pelle shot over on the turn on 74. Three minutes later the Italian got his goal. Davis started the move with a long ball over the top for Tadic on the left. He turned slightly, before floating the ball into the box for Pelle to hammer home. Westwood sliced a shot high and wide on 84. Davis then fired over at the other end. Villa were awarded a penalty deep into stoppage time when van Dijk hauled down Jordan Ayew. Scott Sinclair tucked away the spot-kick, but by that point there were only a few seconds left and no time for an unlikely comeback.
Hardly the most memorable display, but Saints still got the job done. Most of the fringe players who came in did at least a reasonable job. Yoshida and Matt Targett - two players who have come in for some criticism this season - did particularly well. With Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham already out of the competition, there is a genuine opportunity for Saints to go far. Right now we're more than a match for Liverpool. With a strong team and a big crowd behind them, we can definitely get the job done.
Stekelenburg: 7. Probably his best game in a Saints shirt, made some decent saves
Yoshida: 7. Proved he is a perfectly worthy backup full-back. Attacked confidently and solid at the back
Caulker: 6. Did ok defensively, although he wasn't tested greatly. Distribution could have been better
van Dijk: 6. Foul for the penalty the only real blemish on an otherwise solid performance
Targett: 7. Some clever defensive play. Looked comfortable on the ball
Wanyama: 6. A few sloppy moments, but overall maintained decent control of the midfield
Romeu: 6. Reasonably tidy on the ball and involved in some crunching tackles
Ramirez: 6. Flickered in spells. Not everything he did came off, but a few quality balls. Linked up well with Yoshida on the right at the start of the 2nd half
Ward-Prowse: 6. Pretty quiet on the whole
Juanmi: 6. Worked hard, making one particularly brilliant tackle in his own half. Didn't really happen for him going forward
Pelle: 6. Isolated for long periods, but looked reasonably sharp following the double substitution
Davis: 6. Quickened the pace. Sharp on the ball
Tadic: 7. Made an immediate impact, adding more speed and quality in attack
Saints: Yoshida (51) Pelle (77)
Aston Villa: Sinclair (90)
Attendance: 31,314 (3,258 Aston Villa fans)
Referee: Keith Stroud
Saints line-up: Stekelenburg, Yoshida, Caulker, van Dijk, Targett, Wanyama, Romeu, Ramirez (S Davis 68), Ward-Prowse, Juanmi (Tadic 70), Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Martina, Fonte, Clasie, Seager
Aston line-up: Guzan, Hutton, Clark, Crespo, Richardson, Westwood, Sanchez, Amavi (Greaslish 64), Bacuna (Ayew 63), Agabonlahor, Gestede (Sinclair 72)
Subs not used: Bunn, Okore, Veretout, Gil