26/09/2015: Saints 3-1 Swansea
Saints moved up to 9th with a solid 3-1 win over Swansea at St Mary's. The home side played good football for much of the match, and also displayed cohesion and tactical awareness that had been lacking in previous fixtures.
Ronald Koeman named a strong starting eleven, with Ryan Bertrand coming back in for his first league start of the season. Victor Wanyama sat in front of the back four, with Steven Davis and James Ward-Prowse covering both defensively as well as offering support further forward when appropriate.
Saints pressed well early on. The visitors attempted to play out from the back, but were prevented from doing so. Sadio Mane had a couple of good early chances for Saints. Firstly he curled an effort over the bar from just outside the box. His 8th minute opportunity was a lot closer. Mane nicked the ball just past the post following good work from Wanyama.
Saints' made their superiority count on 11. Virgil van Dijk made a good run to the near post before heading in Ward-Prowse's corner. The home side remained on top for much of the first-half. Saints showed fluency throughout the team and moved the ball quickly in the final third. Swansea looked reasonably crisp when they had possession, but lacked any real cutting edge going forward. There were a few communication issues for Saints in the first-half, which resulted in a few half-chances for the away side. Graziano Pelle headed high and wide from Dusan Tadic's cross on 33. A few minutes later Mane tried his luck from distance, but his shot was easy for Lukas Fabianski to gather. Saints saw a bit less of the ball going into the break.
Swansea made a double substitution at half-time with Bafetimbi Gomis and former Saint Jack Cork coming off for Eder and Jefferson Montero. Eder was completely ineffective up front. His wayward 49th minute effort summed up his afternoon. Montero was nullified effectively on the left as well.
Saints continued to attack effectively, and on 54 it was 2-0. Pelle brilliantly chipped the ball up for Tadic to run on to on the left of the penalty area. The Serb held off the challenge of his marker, before chipping the ball over the keeper. Saints grew in confidence with that extra cushion and put the result pretty much beyond doubt on 61. Pelle had a shot blocked before Mane slotted into the corner of the net from the centre of the box.
On 67 Fabianski made a fairly routine save from a van Dijk free-kick. Substitute Oriol Romeu's springing header was never going to trouble the keeper either. Saints ran out of steam during the last 15 minutes or so. Swansea took control of possession, and were given a lifeline on 83. Jose Fonte dived in recklessly on Neil Taylor. Gylfi Sigurdsson stepped up and sent Maarten Stekelenburg the wrong way. Swansea kept the ball close to Saints' penalty area during the final few minutes, without testing Stekelenburg any further. Saints had one final opportunity from a counter attack in stoppage time. Juanmi played in Pelle, who shot high and wide.
Koeman said he wasn't happy with the performance of his team in his post-match press conference. While that might have seemed slightly harsh to some, it's good that he demands high standards. As well as Saints played for a good portion of the match, they did slack off slightly towards the end. There were also a few other sloppy moments throughout the rest of the 90. Still, Saints looked more like a team than had done in most previous games this season. The balance was just about right. Saints got bodies back when Swansea were on the attack, and there were also plenty of options every time the team broke forward. The win eases the pressure on the team somewhat and also gives us something to build on.
Stekelenburg: 6. Another fairly quiet afternoon. Let a couple of shots almost slip through his grasp
Cedric: 6. Looked a bit out of sync with some of his teammates early on, but improved as the game went on. Offered decent support in the final third and also made some good tackles
Fonte: 6. Rash in giving away the penalty, but otherwise a slight improvement on recent displays. Worked well with van Dijk
van Dijk: 7. Composed under pressure and strong in the air at both ends of the pitch
Bertrand: 7. A few slack passes early on, but overall pretty good all things considered. Did well to manage the pace of the game, and offered Saints more balance on the left
Wanyama: 7. Made some good bursts forward. Got a booking for committing two silly fouls after giving the ball away on both occasions
Ward-Prowse: 8. Delivery very good as you would expect. Also covered plenty of ground and moved the ball quickly
Davis: 7. Did well linking the play from midfield to attack
Mane: 7. Looked tricky all game. Took him a while to find his shooting boots, but stuck at it and took his goal well
Tadic: 8. Displayed great skill and vision on the flank. Deserved his goal
Pelle: 8. Worked hard for the team throughout, and linked up brilliantly with the other attacking players
Romeu: 6. Did much of the ugly work in midfield
Rodriguez: 5. Didn't really get into the game
Juanmi: Created the last chance of the match for Pelle
Saints: van Dijk (11) Tadic (54) Mane (61)
Swansea: Sigurdsson (83)
Attendance: 30,704 (1,724 Swansea fans)
Referee: Roger East
Saints line-up: Stekelenburg, Cedric, Fonte, van Dijk, Bertrand, Wanyama, Ward-Prowse, S Davis (Romeu 63), Mane (Juanmi 86), Tadic (Rodriguez 74), Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Martina, Yoshida, Long
Swansea line-up: Fabianski, Naughton, Fernandez, Williams, Taylor, Ki, Cork (Montero 46), Shelvey (Britton 80), Ayew, Sigurdsson, Gomis (Eder 46)
Subs not used: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Bartley, Routledge