U23 Report: Saints 2-1 Villarreal

By SFC Media Wed 06 Mar Saints v Villarreal
Photo by James Bridle
Wed 06 Mar 7PM
Premier League International Cup
Southampton
2
Villarreal CF
1
Smallbone [31'] O'Connor [61']
Álvarez [59']
Venue: Staplewood Campus | Attendance: 0

It was a night to remember in the Premier League International Cup for Southampton’s Under-23s, who edged past Villarreal at Staplewood to book a place in the competition’s semi-finals.

Will Smallbone’s first-half penalty set the tone for the night, before a dramatic second period culminated in multiple red cards and dismissals for both sides.

Sandwiched between the melee was a goal from Villarreal’s Fran Alvarez, before Tom O’Connor struck the winner a mere two minutes later, sealing victory and progression to the last four for Radhi Jaïdi’s youngsters.

The win, against a very experienced European side, sets Saints up nicely for an arguably even bigger tie against Wolverhampton Wanderers in five days, where first plays second in Premier League 2 at Molineux Stadium.

The Spaniards began brightly, and had Saints on the back foot early on. In truth, they enjoyed positive passages of play throughout, but weren’t able to break through the hosts' resolute backline often enough, while Saints were happy to concede possession, but made their presence felt when it mattered.

Nathan Tella was the creator of the home side’s first opening when he was upended in the box in the 31st minute. With his back to goal, the challenge appeared needless, but nevertheless presented Smallbone with the chance to strike from the penalty spot.

He did so with plenty of conviction, keeping a cool head and smashing the ball into the top corner, leaving Joan Femenías with no chance of intercepting.

The goal came debatably against the run of play, but Saints were rewarded for their boldness; continuing to commit bodies forward despite being pressurised at the opposite end.

Still, Harry Lewis had relatively little to do until the 59th minute, when Alvarez managed to, rather fortuitously, flick the ball over the onrushing stopper to level proceedings. The nature of the goal was lucky, but on the balance of play, was perhaps justified.

Undeterred, Saints poured forward in search of another, and only took two minutes to regain their advantage.

Smallbone delivered a wicked cross to the back post from a corner, where captain O’Connor was arriving late, and whether he knew much about it or not, the Irishman tapped the ball inside the post, snatching back the lead as quickly as Villarreal had levelled.

The finale was equally as dramatic, as the emotion of the evening boiled over. Christian Norton, a second-half substitute, was dismissed in stoppage time after catching Carlos Blanco with a trailing elbow, sparking further commotion at the final whistle.

The referee called time on the game shortly after, instigating an outpour of celebration from the boys in red and white but serving to agitate their guests, who were unimpressed by the display. Both Dan N’Lundulu and Blanco received red cards in the resulting fracas.

Needless to say, the scenes at the end will do little to dampen the spirits of Saints’ youngsters, whose performance was particularly impressive given the relative experience levels of their Villarreal counterparts, who had put seven past Liverpool in their final group stage game back in November.

Southampton

1
Harry Lewis (GK)
2
Dare Olufunwa
3
Kameron Ledwidge
4
Tom O'Connor (C)
5
Aaron O'Driscoll
6
Christoph Klarer
7
Nathan Tella
Christian Norton (85′)
8
Will Smallbone
9
Will Ferry
Alex Jankewitz (70′)
10
Harry Hamblin
11
Tyreke Johnson
Dan N'Lundulu (70′)
12
Allan Tchaptchet
13
Jack Rose
14
Alex Jankewitz
15
Kornelius Hansen
16
Christian Norton
17
Seamas Keogh
18
Dan N'Lundulu

Villarreal CF

1
Joan Femenías (GK)
2
Joan Salva
Roger Reiera (81′)
3
Edu Adell
4
Jose Castano
5
Carlos Blanco
6
Carlos Beitia
Ivan Martin (65′)
7
Adrian Reira
Junehyuk Ahn (58′)
8
Victor Moya
9
Nikola Vujnovic
10
Fran Álvarez
11
Dani Villanueva
12
Roger Reiera
13
Jose Martinez
14
Antonio Leal
15
Ivan Martin
16
Junehyuk Ahn
17
Simon Moreno
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