Report: Saints suffer late heartbreak at Ipswich

Live Matchday Images/2023-24/20240401 Ipswich vs Southampton/AY5I4840_a03249c8-0437-4d62-8a7e-4ffe476bcf25_20240401054520_fdhxzo

Southampton were dealt a heartbreaking defeat at fellow promotion chasers Ipswich Town, as a goal deep into added time from Jeremy Sarmiento handed them a cruel loss at Portman Road.

Saints, who ended the game with ten players after the late dismissal of James Bree, had looked on course for a potentially huge victory after first-half goals from Ché Adams and Adam Armstrong overturned an early deficit, but Ipswich substitute Nathan Broadhead’s equaliser against the run of play on 68 minutes was followed by Sarmiento's prodded finish in the seventh minute of added time to leave Russell Martin's side reflecting on an outcome that was hardly reflective of their performance.

It's a result that leaves Saints fourth in the table, eleven points behind second-placed Leicester at the end of the match, albeit still with a game in hand.

There were three changes from the Saints team that had drawn with Middlesbrough on Good Friday, as Jan Bednarek, Joe Aribo and Ryan Fraser came into the starting line-up, with Kyle Walker-Peters, Will Smallbone and Kamaldeen dropping to the bench.

Joe Aribo was brought in as one of three changes to the team (Photo: Matt Watson)

With Walker-Peters among the substitutes, Martin started with Bree at right back, while captain Jack Stephens was on the left side of the defence, although pushing into a higher position when the visitors were in possession.

Saints started off dominating the ball, but they found themselves a goal behind on 13 minutes with Ipswich’s first real effort of the game.

Sam Morsy had clipped an angled pass to Leif Davis just inside the left edge of the area, and the full-back took a touch before crashing a shot high into the net at the near post, with the ball being hit with such ferocity that it was past the diving Gavin Bazunu in a flash.

Yet Saints would trail for only a minute, as they produced an instant reply.

It came via a slick move that saw them swiftly work the ball up the pitch, with Adam Armstrong driving into the area and squaring to Aribo, who was able to nudge it further on towards the edge of the six-yard box, where Adams was on hand to sweep home.

Ché Adams prepares to celebrate after making it 1-1 (Photo: Matt Watson)

Despite Ipswich’s vociferous claims that he had been offside, replays showed that Adams had indeed been played on, and the goal was correctly given.

On 23 minutes it got even better for Saints, as they took a deserved lead.

Adam Armstrong was the scorer, but it owed so much to his namesake Stuart, whose driving burst from the left wing and then infield was followed by a perfectly-weighted, angled pass that found the run of his teammate on the opposite side, and the forward didn’t have to break stride as he stroked home a low effort into the far bottom corner for his 20th goal of the season.

Adam Armstrong fires home to put Saints 2-1 ahead (Photo: Matt Watson)

Ipswich wasted a decent chance to level the game in the 30th minute, as a smart move worked space for Conor Chaplin in a central position on the edge of the box, but he didn’t connect with his first-time shot properly and sent it into the arms of Bazunu for a comfortable save.

Shortly after, there was more frustration for the home team, as they lost Kieffer Moore to injury, with Ali Al-Hamadi replacing him.

Saints almost piled a bit more misery onto them three minutes from half-time when they won the ball in the Ipswich half through Aribo and quickly worked it across to Stuart Armstrong, who slid a pass into Fraser, only for his clever shot back across goal to flash inches wide.

If that was fortunate for Ipswich, so too was what happened next when Sam Morsy, booked earlier in the half, caught Flynn Downes after being dispossessed by him, but escaped a dismissal, with referee Michael Salisbury opting to keep his cards in his pocket.

Into added time at the end of the half, and Adam Armstrong went close to another goal, cutting onto his left foot near the edge of the area and curling a shot just over, as Saints went into the break with a one-goal advantage.

They almost doubled it seven minutes after the restart too, as an in-swinging free-kick from Bree was flicked on by the head of Bednarek towards the far corner, forcing Ipswich keeper Vaclav Hladky into a full-stretch, fingertip save.

Russell Martin shouts instructions during the game at Portman Road (Photo: Matt Watson)

Saints were looking a real threat for the third goal, and they carved out a wonderful chance to get it on 58 minutes, producing another glorious, flowing move from one end to the other.

Downes was sent driving forward after a smart one-two with Adams around halfway, and ended up with two options to play through as he neared the Ipswich area. In retrospect, Adam Armstrong may have had a little more room, but Downes did find Fraser to his left, only for his angle to be narrowed by Hladky, who made a fine save to deny him.

They almost came to regret the missed opportunity only three minutes later, as Ipswich went close to an equaliser completely against the run of play, but fortunately Al-Hamadi struck the post after cutting into a shooting position on the edge of the box, with the ball rebounding out to safety.

But the hosts did level just moments later, as substitute Broadhead, who was introduced shortly after the hour mark, produced a low, first-time finish from about 16 yards after a pass was slid into him in the box.

Martin responded by sending on David Brooks for Fraser and, soon after, introduced Sam Edozie for Adams.

The game was becoming even more open, with both sides looking like they fancied their chances to grab a winner, and Saints almost pulled ahead again with just over ten minutes remaining, as a clever move ended with Brooks sliding a pass into the box for the marauding Stephens, whose cutback found Adam Armstrong, only for his shot to somehow be scrambled into the arms of Hladky.

Two more changes followed from Martin, as Stuart Armstrong and Aribo made way for Will Smallbone and Joe Rothwell.

But Saints then suffered the loss of a player they couldn't replace, as Bree was dismissed with five minutes remaining, shown a straight red by Salisbury for pulling down Davis just outside the area as he attempted to race in on goal.

Still, it didn't deter them from seeking a winner, and they almost got one when Brooks was played into space on the right of the area and looked for Adam Armstrong with a square delivery, only for Luke Woolfenden to slide in and divert the ball just past his own post.

But it was Ipswich who got the decisive goal, with almost the last kick of the game, as the ball dropped to Sarmiento in the area and he managed to poke it low into the far corner, sending Saints to defeat and his own team to the top of the Championship.

Ipswich Town: Hladky, Tuanzebe (Clarke 61), Woolfenden, Burgess, Davis, Morsy (captain), Luongo (Taylor 61), Jackson (Broadhead 61), Chaplin (Sarmiento 89), Hutchinson, Moore (Al-Hamadi 36).

Unused substitutes: Walton, Edmundson, Travis, Harness.

Goals: Davis (13’), Broadhead (68’), Sarmiento (90+7')

Yellow cards: Morsy, Taylor, Chaplin.

Southampton: Bazunu, Bree, Harwood-Bellis, Bednarek, Stephens (captain), Downes, Aribo (Rothwell 82), S Armstrong (Smallbone 82), Fraser (Brooks 71), A Armstrong, Adams (Edozie 77).

Unused substitutes: Lumley, Walker-Peters, Manning, Kamaldeen, Mara.

Goals: Adams (14’), A Armstrong (23’).

Yellow cards: Bednarek.

Red cards: Bree.

Referee: Michael Salisbury.