Saints win again on fans' return to St Mary's

By SFC Media time Sun 13 Dec Saints v Sheffield United
Photo by Matt Watson | Ché Adams
Sun 13 Dec 12PM
Premier League
Sheffield United
Adams [34'] Armstrong [62'] Redmond [83']
yellow card
Stevens (28')
Referee: Andy Madley | Venue: St Mary's Stadium | Attendance: 2,000

Southampton welcomed supporters back to St Mary’s with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Sheffield United to move up to third in the Premier League table.

Saints controlled the game from start to finish against the only top-flight team still without a win this season, and may have added to goals from Ché Adams, Stuart Armstrong and Nathan Redmond.

The hosts had to wait until the 34th minute to make the breakthrough, as Adams stayed alert in the box to turn the ball home from close range against his former club.

Armstrong made it two just after the hour via a deflection, before Redmond arrived off the bench to curl in a precise finish seven minutes from time.

Ralph Hasenhüttl admitted he had strongly considered restoring Danny Ings to his starting line-up for Monday’s 2-1 win at Brighton, in which his leading scorer came off the bench to score the winner from the penalty spot on his return from injury.

This time the temptation was too great, as Ings partnered Adams up front, with Theo Walcott moving out to the left and Moussa Djenepo dropping to the bench in Hasenhüttl’s only change.

Opposite number Chris Wilder looked to experience in a bid to overturn a desperate start to the new campaign, which had yielded just one point from 11 games, handing rare starts to ex-Saint Billy Sharp, 34, and 38-year-old Phil Jagielka.

Hasenhüttl had told supporters to expect a more patient approach from his side, who tend to enjoy much more possession these days, in a significant change in style since fans were last inside the stadium.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13: Southampton fans celebrate after Stuart Armstrong makes it 2-0 during the Premier League match between Southampton and Sheffield United at St Mary's Stadium on December 13, 2020 in Southampton, England. A limited number of spectators (2000) are welcomed back to stadiums to watch elite football across England. This was following easing of restrictions on spectators in tiers one and two areas only. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Saints welcomed fans back to St Mary's for the first time since March

The 2,000 in attendance embraced this newfound confidence they were watching, as Saints built from the back, with only the final ball lacking in an encouraging opening in which Oriol Romeu fired the first warning shot, albeit off target from 20 yards.

United were determined to deny their hosts space, defending deep and closing gaps between the lines as Saints continued to probe.

The front two combined for the first time in the 16th minute, as Adams turned smartly away from his marker and threaded the ball through for Ings, who went eye to eye with Aaron Ramsdale, only to be denied in trying to place the ball between the keeper’s legs. The now familiar sight of a late flag would have cut short any premature celebrations in any case.

Patience was going to be key if Saints were to unpick their visitors, but in Jannik Vestergaard they have a defender with the ability to initiate dangerous attacks from deeper positions.

When the Dane strode into United territory, he dropped a shoulder and then cleverly disguised a pass into Ings, which led to a corner that Vestergaard himself headed only inches wide.

A lengthy delay for Oli McBurnie to receive treatment after a heavy landing did nothing to halt Saints’ momentum, as Adams switched the play superbly to Ings, who was again crowded out but was increasing in threat.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13: Stuart Armstrong of Southampton celebrates after making it 2-0 during the Premier League match between Southampton and Sheffield United at St Mary's Stadium on December 13, 2020 in Southampton, England. A limited number of spectators (2000) are welcomed back to stadiums to watch elite football across England. This was following easing of restrictions on spectators in tiers one and two areas only. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Stuart Armstrong wheels away after doubling Saints' lead

It took 32 minutes for United to register an attempt at goal, but it was a genuine opportunity to open the scoring, completely against the run of play.

Enda Stevens, who deliberately handled the ball to prevent Walcott racing through on goal minutes earlier, delivered low from the left for the onrushing Sander Berge, who could not divert an enticing cross inside the far post.

Two minutes later, Wilder was ruing the miss as Adams pounced to make the breakthrough at the other end.

When a James Ward-Prowse free-kick was headed up rather than out by Jagielka, Jan Bednarek kept the ball alive and Adams squeezed a volley inside the near post from just four yards out – his eighth goal in Saints colours and his third against the club who launched his professional career.

The first-half statistics underlined the one-sided nature of the action. The chance for Berge was the visitors’ only shot compared to 10 for Saints, who had enjoyed a staggering 80 per cent of the possession.

McBurnie was sacrificed within three minutes of the restart, in favour of another former Saint, David McGoldrick, in a bid to turn the tide.

John Egan went close to an equaliser soon after, heading wide from a corner, hinting that Saints should expect much more of a contest in the second period, and a reminder that a 1-0 lead is never safe.

20201213 Southampton v Sheffield United
Substitute Nathan Redmond put the icing on the cake with a late third

But Saints were soon back in the ascendancy, with one particularly fluid passage of play resulting in a cross from the right reaching Ings, who lashed the ball high over the bar on the half-volley. The football before it, from back to front, was excellent.

The lead was doubled from Saints’ next attack. Armstrong fed Ings on the left, who returned the ball to the Scot on the edge of the D. Shifting the ball on to his left foot, his low shot trundled into the net off the unfortunate Jagielka.

It was a tough break that summed up United’s recent fortunes, but the 2-0 scoreline was the least Hasenhüttl’s men deserved on the balance of play.

A trademark Ward-Prowse free-kick would have absolutely sealed it, and you could sense the anticipation inside St Mary’s when Walcott went to ground 25 yards from goal, but the skipper’s set-piece was just too high, as the scrambling Ramsdale breathed a sigh of relief.

Further chances followed as history repeated itself with Vestergaard heading wide from another corner, before Ings was again thwarted by the sprawling Ramsdale.

For once it was not his day in front of goal, but Redmond needed only three minutes to write his name on to the scoresheet, trading passes with Romeu and calmly placing the ball beyond Ramsdale’s left hand to find the bottom corner in style.

Dan N’Lundulu and Ibrahima Diallo were also brought on, introducing themselves to the Saints fans for the first time, as their team continued where they’d left off behind closed doors.


Head to Head Stats

Sheffield United
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Alex McCarthy (GK)
Ryan Bertrand
Jan Bednarek
Jannik Vestergaard
Kyle Walker-Peters
Oriol Romeu
replace Ibrahima Diallo (86′)
Theo Walcott
replace Nathan Redmond (80′) goal
Stuart Armstrong goal
James Ward-Prowse (C)
Danny Ings
Che Adams goal
replace Daniel N'Lundulu (84′)
Jack Stephens
Moussa Djenepo
Daniel N'Lundulu
Mohammed Salisu
Ibrahima Diallo
Nathan Redmond
Fraser Forster

Sheffield United

Aaron Ramsdale (GK)
John Egan
Chris Basham
replace Lys Mousset (70′)
George Baldock
Phil Jagielka
Enda Stevens yellow card
John Fleck
Ethan Ampadu
Sander Berge
Billy Sharp (C)
replace Rhian Brewster (60′)
Oliver McBurnie
replace David McGoldrick (48′)
David McGoldrick
Ben Osborn
Lys Mousset
Jack Robinson
Rhian Brewster
Michael Verrips
John Lundstram
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