Saints fall to last-gasp Cardiff defeat

By SFC Media time Sat 09 Feb Saints v Cardiff
Photo by Matt Watson | Shane Long
Sat 09 Feb 3PM
Premier League
Cardiff City
Stephens [90+1']
Bamba [69'] Zohore [90+3']
Ward-Prowse (45+1') Redmond (89') Romeu (90+6')
yellow card
Gunnarsson (61') Bamba (70') Zohore (90+4')
Referee: Martin Atkinson | Venue: St Mary's Stadium | Attendance: 31,438

Southampton tasted defeat for the first time in six Premier League matches as they fell to a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat against Cardiff City.

Substitute Kenneth Zohore's strike deep into added time, just moments after Jack Stephens looked to have secured a potentially precious point by cancelling out Sol Bamba's opener, gave the visitors a valuable victory in the fight at the bottom of the table.

The significance was that Saints, who had actually dominated the vast majority of the game, slipped to 17th in the table, as Cardiff leapfrogged them, with Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side now outside of the bottom three on goal difference, ahead of a break in their schedule next week.

There were four changes from Saints for the game, the most notable of which was the return of Ryan Bertrand, who was back in the line-up after three months on the sideline with injury.

Bertrand replaced Matt Targett at left-back, with Yan Valery also reintroduced on the opposite side, while Pierre-Emile Højbjerg was restored to midfield after recovering from a head injury that had ruled him out at Burnley a week earlier.

Shane Long took the place of the injured Danny Ings in attack, and Maya Yoshida gained a place on the bench after having been away at the Asian Cup, but there was no place in the squad for Stuart Armstrong, who missed out with a slight calf problem.

The scenes immediately before kick-off were tinged with sadness, as players, fans and staff from both sides joined in a minute’s silence in memory of Emiliano Sala, following the tragic loss of the Bluebirds player.

It was an impeccably observed period of reflection, with each team also wearing black armbands for the game and Cardiff’s shirts bearing the name of Sala and an embroidered daffodil.

20190119 Southampton v Everton
Fans and players pay their respects to Emiliano Sala ahead of kick-off

Once under way, there was little between the sides in the early minutes of the match, although Saints soon began to establish some dominance and produced the first moment of true danger when the ball was worked to Bertrand down the left in the 12th minute. He fired in an enticing low cross, which just eluded Højbjerg, before pinballing around and eventually flying just wide off Cardiff captain Bamba.

Nathan Redmond, with six goals in his previous ten games, was soon in the thick of the attacking action, racing onto a Højbjerg pass down the left, before cutting into the area on his right foot and sending a low shot into the side netting.

Chances were hard to come by for a while thereafter, though, with Cardiff content to sit deep and give Saints little opportunity to press them.

It meant Hasenhüttl’s side had plenty of the ball in their opponent’s half, but often required an intricate way through.

Højbjerg tried the brute force approach on 38 minutes, chesting the ball down outside of the area and volleying goalwards, but he had to stretch to hit it and couldn’t get enough power to significantly trouble Cardiff keeper Neil Etheridge.

20190209 Southampton v Cardiff City
Ryan Bertrand back in action for Southampton

It was back to intricacy shortly after, as Redmond and Højberg combined for a brilliant one-two down the inside-right, with Redmond’s resulting low ball being deflected goalwards by Bamba, but fortunately for the Bluebirds defender it was straight at Etheridge.

Saints were beginning to increase the pressure ahead of half-time, and Redmond carved out another opening, this time in the 44th minute, as he danced across the edge of the area, before taking aim with his left foot from a central position, only for Bruno Manga to make a tremendous sliding block.

The only remaining incident in the half saw James Ward-Prowse booked for hauling back Oumar Niasse as he looked to break, with Saints going into the interval having looked the more threatening but without anything tangible to show for their efforts.

The game continued in a similar vein as the second half began, with Højbjerg testing Etheridge with a low drive from distance, while Valery also did similar with a well-struck shot from inside the corner of the area after showing good intent to drive into the box.

But Cardiff remained resolute, sitting deep and looking to frustrate, while keeping Niasse and Bobby Reid as potential threats on the counter.

20190209 Southampton v Cardiff City
Saints reflect on Sol Bamba's goal

It was becoming a continuing theme that Saints could work their way to the edge of the visitors’ area, only to find the going much tougher once they got there, with a number of attacks fizzling out in frustration.

Then, just as Hasenhüttl was set to throw Charlie Austin on for a different attacking option, disaster struck, as Cardiff, who had barely threatened all afternoon, took the lead in the 69th minute.

It was a simple goal too, as Joe Ralls drove in a corner, which Callum Paterson met with his head, and Bamba was there inside the six-yard box to stick out his right foot and divert the ball past Alex McCarthy, before jumping in among the Cardiff fans in an emotional celebration.

Hasenhüttl responded with two changes, as Austin made it on in place of Long, while Mohamed Elyounoussi was introduced for Jannik Vestergaard.

Saints came so close to levelling on 76 minutes, as Valery nearly scored one of the finest goals seen at St Mary’s in some time, driving forward from halfway and beating one, two and then three Cardiff defenders, only to be denied at the last by the legs of Etheridge.

It looked as though the full-back’s efforts would result in a goal nonetheless, though, as the loose ball fell to Austin six yards out, but Lee Peltier produced a stunning block to deny him, before then keeping out Elyounoussi with a second block, although the Saints attacker claimed he did so with the use of his arms.

Valery was then withdrawn in favour of Sam Gallagher, who was sent on for his second Premier League appearance of the season.

Ward-Prowse then tested Etheridge with a slightly deflected free-kick from 25 yards, but found the Cardiff keeper equal to it, as he pushed the ball clear of his bottom corner.

It looked as though the equaliser would never come but, then, in the first minute of added time it finally did.

Ward-Prowse's corner was flicked across goal by the head of Austin, and there was Jack Stephens racing in at the far post to slot home and send a shot of relief racing around St Mary's.

It lasted mere moments, though. Cardiff went on one last attack and sent the ball into the area, with a scramble ensuing. It dropped kindly to the feet of Zohore, who was brought on earlier in the half, just outside the six-yard box and he rolled the ball back into the far corner to break Saints' hearts.

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Head to Head Stats

Cardiff City
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Alex McCarthy (GK)
Jack Stephens goal
Jan Bednarek
Jannik Vestergaard
replace Mohamed Elyounoussi (72′)
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (C)
James Ward-Prowse yellow card
Yan Valery
replace Sam Gallagher (83′)
Ryan Bertrand
Oriol Romeu yellow card
Nathan Redmond yellow card
Shane Long
replace Charlie Austin (72′)
Callum Slattery
Charlie Austin
Angus Gunn
Maya Yoshida
Sam Gallagher
Matt Targett
Mohamed Elyounoussi

Cardiff City

Neil Etheridge (GK)
Bruno Ecuele Manga
Lee Peltier
Sol Bamba (C) yellow card goal
Joe Bennett
Joe Ralls
Callum Paterson
Aron Gunnarsson yellow card
replace Leandro Bacuna (62′)
Oumar Niasse
replace Víctor Camarasa (83′)
Bobby De Cordova-Reid
replace Kenneth Zohore (62′) yellow card goal
Harry Arter
Víctor Camarasa
Josh Murphy
Kenneth Zohore
Nathaniel Mendez-Laing
David Junior Hoilett
Alex Smithies
Leandro Bacuna
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