13/02/2016: Swansea 0-1 Saints
Saints continued their unbeaten run with a tight, but deserved win at Swansea. The football wasn't the best, but the visitors created more meaningful chances and just about edged it on the balance of play. Saints are now up to 6th, having kept six clean sheets in a row.
Ronald Koeman started with a 3-5-2, with the fit again Steven Davis filling in at right-wing-back. Unsurprisingly given the line-up Saints were bereft of creativity during the first-half. Swansea looked a bit more assured on the ball, but didn't create many chances. Saints passed the ball around from deep, waiting for gaps to appear. On 6 minutes Graziano Pelle hit a half-volley straight at the keeper, after being teed up by Shane Long just outside the area.
Andre Ayew shot tamely at Fraser Forster after being given space to drive through the middle. That was a rare defensive lapse from Saints, who were otherwise compact. Swansea struggled to play their way through. The visitors created most of their openings through hit and hope long balls and set pieces. Ryan Bertrand had a crack from distance, shooting over onto the roof of the net. Jordy Clasie then had a shot blocked after a great break from Long. At the other end Gylfi Sigurdsson had a few wild efforts fly over the bar. Just before half-time Long missed a great chance, heading straight at the keeper from a deep cross when free in the area.
The second-half followed a similar pattern to the first, with neither team showing a great deal of quality. Oriol Romeu fluffed his 51st minute header after Bertrand had provided a good cross. Sigurdsson curled a low shot wide a few moments later. Pelle had a goal disallowed on 57 after Jose Fonte had knocked the ball out of Lukasz Fabianski's hands. On 67 Long turned well on the edge of the area, but couldn't get enough power on his shot. The Irishman was given another chance a few minutes later, and this time he took it, heading in from James Ward-Prowse's cross.
Saints countered with confidence during the last 20 minutes. Swansea had a bit of late pressure, but failed to create any clear cut chances. Modou Barrow shot wide of the near post and the home side also had a succession of corners. Charlie Austin had a couple of opportunities to wrap it up, forcing Fabianski into a near post save. Saints cranked out the time-wasting tactics at the end to ensure the result.
Not the most entertaining of games by a long way, but it keeps the momentum going. Saints had very few creative players on show, so our attacking player was never likely to be that easy on the eye. Koeman took a pragmatic approach once again, and it paid off. A good footballing side like Swansea are always going to find it tough against a team who put so many men behind the ball, and so it proved on this occasion. Going forward we did just enough once again. That Dusan Tadic and Sadio Mane weren't even needed on this occasion says something about the depth in our squad right now. Our season has been completely revived, having appeared to be all but dead just a few weeks ago.
Forster: 6. Had very little to do, but yet another clean sheet
van Dijk: 7. Some clever defensive play. Timing impeccable
Fonte: 7. Led by example. Let very little get past him
Bertrand: 7. As assured as ever at the back. Provided a few moments of quality at the other end too
Davis: 7. Couldn't quite assert his usual influence on the game until he switched from wing-back to a more central role in the second-half. Produced some really skilful pieces of play
Ward-Prowse: 7. Showed strength in the midfield battle and delivery generally good
Clasie: 6.Dogged and disciplined. A good defensive contribution
Romeu: 6. Put himself about, but not that great in possession
Targett: 6. Battled away without being overly troubled defensively
Pelle: 6. Tidy on the ball from deep, but struggled to get involved closer to goal
Long: 7. Made good use of his pace on the counter. Frustrating in front of goal in the first-half, but ultimately delivered by coming up with the winner
Cedric: 6. Had an immediate impact, playing a role in the equaliser. Gave Saints a bit more balance
Austin: 6. Lively the few times he was presented with the ball close to goal
Yoshida: Sent on to see out the win, but barely needed
Saints: Long (69)
Referee: Jon Moss
Saints line-up: Forster, van Dijk, Fonte, Bertrand, S Davis, Ward-Prowse, Clasie, Romeu (Cedric 63), Targett (Yoshida 86), Pelle (Austin 74), Long
Subs not used: Stekelenburg, Tadic, Juanmi, Mane
Swansea line-up: Fabianski, Rangel (Naughton 67), Fernandez, Williams, Taylor, Ayew, Cork, Britton (Gomis 73), Routledge (Barrow 61), Sigurdsson, Paloschi
Subs not used: Nordfeldt, Amat, Fer, Ki