Ward-Prowse free-kick earns draw at Leeds


A trademark James Ward-Prowse free-kick early in the second half earned Southampton a hard-fought point at Elland Road.

Leeds flew out of the traps, backed by a typically boisterous home crowd, eventually taking the lead on 29 minutes through Jack Harrison’s close-range finish after Raphinha’s cross was parried into his path.

Ché Adams came close to a first-half equaliser, but it was left to Ward-Prowse to do the honours in style, curling home a delightful set-piece four minutes after the interval.

Saints sensed a quick-fire second, which nearly arrived courtesy of Armando Broja, but neither side threatened in the latter stages and a point apiece painted a fair reflection of an engaging contest between two high-octane styles.

Ralph Hasenhüttl made four changes following Saints’ Emirates FA Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of Manchester City before the international break.

Jan Bednarek and Ibrahima Diallo replaced Jack Stephens and Stuart Armstrong, while Adams and Broja were back in from the start to lead the line.

It’s been 10 years since Saints last played at Elland Road in front of a crowd, with last season’s meeting behind closed doors, and the home fans were quick to make themselves heard as their team made a flying start.

Mohammed Salisu had to stretch every sinew to halt Daniel James and force a corner, from which Diego Llorente headed wide from six yards.

Salisu’s centre-back partner Jan Bednarek made an important block soon after, while Mateusz Klich’s shot was on target until it struck teammate Raphinha.

This was all inside the first five minutes, but Saints settled into the contest and might have taken the lead themselves when Adams teed up Mohamed Elyounoussi, whose shot was tame and comfortably saved.

Fraser Forster was called upon for the first time following another burst from James, whose shot across the keeper was beaten away.

Leeds did have the ball in the net on 21 minutes, as Raphinha’s low corner bounced back into play off the near post, causing confusion in the Saints box as Harrison finally forced the ball home, only for Rodrigo to be penalised for a clear push on Bednarek.

The winger did have his name on the scoresheet eight minutes later, as Leeds made their impressive start count.

Raphinha drove down the right and delivered a cross from the byline, having only just kept the ball in play, which Forster could only palm into the danger zone where Harrison was lurking in exactly the same spot as before, carefully prodding the loose ball into the bottom corner from six yards.

Saints’ best chance to equalise arrived 10 minutes before the interval. Oriol Romeu’s clever reverse pass found Adams in the box, who delayed his shot to turn away from Klich but could not dig the ball out from under his feet, resulting in a poked shot towards the far corner off the outside of his boot that drew a fine sprawling save from goalkeeper Illan Meslier.

Adams then turned provider to lay the ball back for Kyle Walker-Peters to strike, fresh from making his England debut, but his side-footed effort from 15 yards just cleared the angle of post and bar.

Saints’ response to falling behind was a positive one, and that continued into the second half as Ward-Prowse levelled things up soon after the restart in trademark fashion.

The constantly involved Walker-Peters won the free-kick, which was positioned in prime Ward-Prowse territory, left of centre with enough distance to get it up, over the wall and back down the other side.

That’s exactly what he did, as the ball curled away from the diving Meslier, who got fingertips to the strike but could not prevent the inevitable outcome.

Saints had a golden chance to turn the game on its head two minutes later, as Elyounoussi fed the ball wide for Tino Livramento, whose low cross was steered wide by Broja from close range, though in the striker’s defence his run had carried him beyond the near post, making the finish that much more difficult.

Leeds had not got going since half time but did come to life when Rodrigo carried the ball deep into Saints territory and picked out Raphinha, who did the hard bit by jinking away from Ward-Prowse but did not connect cleanly with the shot, which skewed off target.

Hasenhüttl made his first change soon after the hour, introducing Armstrong for Romeu as Diallo moved inside to play in his more familiar position, having started the game in a wide No 10 role.

The game was hanging in the balance, but Leeds sensed an opportunity when substitute Joe Gelhardt picked up a dangerous position in the box, forcing a crucial interception from Salisu, before Stuart Dallas’s ensuing volley sent Forster flying to his left to beat it away, colliding with Walker-Peters in the process.

Teenager Gelhardt wanted a penalty when he went down under Diallo’s challenge in the closing stages, but optimistic cries for a penalty were dismissed by referee Anthony Taylor.