Rousing comeback secures a point on St Mary's return

By SFC Media time Sat 13 Aug Saints vs Leeds
Photo by Matt Watson | Kyle Walker-Peters
Sat 13 Aug 3PM
Premier League
Leeds United
Aribo [72'] Walker-Peters [81']
Rodrigo [46' 60']
Salisu (78')
yellow card
Harrison (43') Kristensen (45') Aaronson (90+3')
Referee: Tony Harrington | Venue: St Mary's Stadium | Attendance: 30,815

Southampton produced a rousing comeback from 2-0 down to salvage a point from the first Premier League home match of the new season.

A first half of few chances saw Armel Bella-Kotchap go closest for Saints, while fellow home debutant Gavin Bazunu made an outstanding save to deny substitute Daniel James, on for the injured Patrick Bamford.

But Rodrigo’s second-half double, including the opening goal within 30 seconds of the restart, had Leeds on their way to six points out of six after victory on the opening day.

Ralph Hasenhüttl’s substitutions ultimately made the difference, as Joe Aribo arrived off the bench to pull a goal back from Adam Armstrong’s low cross, before Sékou Mara’s exquisite pass opened the door for Kyle Walker-Peters to rescue a point nine minutes from time.

The manager made four changes to his first starting line-up of the season, including a competitive debut for Bella-Kotchap on the right side of a three-man defence.

The German replaced Yan Valery, while Stuart Armstrong, Mohamed Elyounoussi and Ché Adams were also back in the side at the expense of Oriol Romeu, Aribo and Adam Armstrong, who were all among the substitutes.

With Romain Perraud not fit enough for a place in the 20-man squad, Moussa Djenepo continued in the left wing-back position.

Bella-Kotchap was welcomed to the Premier League by a flailing arm from Leeds skipper Bamford that temporarily flattened the defender, but it was an incident at the other end that had the home fans baying for a red card.

When Armstrong was put through by Elyounoussi, he seemed to win the race with Diego Llorente, though referee Tony Harrington decided the challenge was fair.

A lengthy VAR check ensued, which Llorente survived by virtue of the slightest touch on the ball. Without that, he surely would have been dismissed as the last man.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13:  during the Premier League match between Southampton FC and Leeds United at Friends Provident St. Mary's Stadium on August 13, 2022 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Joe Aribo celebrates halving the deficit after 72 minutes

Back came Leeds, as Rodrigo crossed low for Bamford, who got his angles wrong from close range at the near post when he needed a defter touch.

Another stoppage in play led to a mass drinks break midway through the half when Pascal Struijk clattered into Adams from behind, causing the Saints man to stay down holding his head, but again the hosts were on the wrong end of the decision.

Leeds boss Jesse Marsch was dealt a setback before the half-hour mark when his captain was unable to continue, as Bamford limped off injured.

Meanwhile, Bella-Kotchap’s debut took another twist when he strode purposefully over the halfway line, rode a couple of challenges and unleashed a thunderous shot with his less-favoured left foot, which left Illan Meslier rooted to the spot and relieved to see the ball fly past his left post.

Bamford’s replacement, James, forced a superb save from Bazunu after escaping down the inside-left channel with an electrifying turn of pace, then shooting across the Irishman, who reacted brilliantly to make a fine one-handed stop.

Saints rode their luck when the resulting corner was flicked on at the near post invitingly for the unmarked Rasmus Kristensen at the far, but the Dane seemed to misjudge the flight of the ball and couldn’t apply any power to his header, which was gratefully pounced upon by Bazunu.

Bella-Kotchap’s eventful first half ended in more pain, this time inflicted by an ugly challenge on the touchline from Jack Harrison, who was the first player into Harrington’s book, followed shortly after by Kristensen.

A first period lacking rhythm ended with a Saints showreel as some dazzling footwork helped Djenepo out of a tight space before James Ward-Prowse flicked the ball up to himself and volleyed the ball left footed from one side of the pitch to another.

But the first to make an impression after the interval were Leeds, who needed only 30 seconds to edge in front, as Harrison’s low cross was turned in by Rodrigo at the near post.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13:  during the Premier League match between Southampton FC and Leeds United at Friends Provident St. Mary's Stadium on August 13, 2022 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Kyle Walker-Peters's late equaliser sends St Mary's into raptures

Armstrong instantly dragged a shot wide in reply, but Saints had been too slow out of the blocks and Leeds took full advantage to double their lead on the hour mark.

In similar fashion to the chance missed by Kristensen in the first half, another near-post corner was flicked on, as Struijk’s header looped over Bazunu’s dive and Rodrigo poached his second from on the goal line.

Hasenhüttl immediately summoned Adam Armstrong and Aribo from the bench, as Stuart Armstrong and Mohamed Elyounoussi were sacrificed.

Aribo was involved straightaway when picked out by Djenepo’s cross from the left, but his header lacked the necessary power to trouble Meslier.

The substitute then saw another chance blocked as he went to shoot, but it would prove third time lucky for the Nigerian.

The introduction of Mara 20 minutes from time prompted a return to Saints’ traditional 4-2-2-2 formation, with Mara and Adams flanked by Adam Armstrong and Aribo.

And it was the two No 10s who combined when Armstrong found space down the left and delivered a low cross that Aribo took his time to control, before rounding Meslier and burying a low shot through a crowd of bodies to give St Mary’s the lift it had been waiting for.

Suddenly Saints had their identity back, playing with passion and purpose, feeding off the energy of the crowd, and it was a moment of brilliance from Mara that unlocked the visitors to level the scores nine minutes from time.

Dropping off the front, the 20-year-old showed outstanding vision to spot the run of Walker-Peters and weighted his defence-splitting pass to perfection for the full-back, who accelerated into the penalty area and drove the ball across Meslier and into the far corner.

Mara was not finished there, stinging the palms of his fellow Frenchman from 20 yards with a vicious snapshot, as six added minutes were signalled.

The hat-trick hunting Rodrigo forced one final save from Bazunu with a rasping drive in stoppage time, as St Mary’s rose to acclaim a breathless second half at its conclusion.


Head to Head Stats

Leeds United
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Gavin Bazunu (GK)
Mohammed Salisu yellow card
Armel Bella-Kotchap
Jan Bednarek
replace Sékou Mara (70′)
Moussa Djenepo
replace Jack Stephens (91′)
Roméo Lavia
James Ward-Prowse (C)
Kyle Walker-Peters goal
Che Adams
Stuart Armstrong
replace Joe Aribo (62′) goal
Mohamed Elyounoussi
replace Adam Armstrong (61′)
Joe Aribo
Yan Valery
Ibrahima Diallo
Alex McCarthy
Oriol Romeu
Sékou Mara
Jack Stephens
Adam Armstrong

Leeds United

Illan Meslier (GK)
Pascal Struijk
Rasmus Kristensen yellow card
Diego Llorente
Robin Koch
Marc Roca
replace Adam Forshaw (88′)
Brenden Aaronson yellow card
Rodrigo goal goal
Tyler Adams
Jack Harrison yellow card
replace Mateusz Klich (84′)
Patrick Bamford (C)
replace Daniel James (28′) replace Luis Sinisterra (84′)
Kristoffer Klaesson
Luis Sinisterra
Sam Greenwood
Mateusz Klich
Cody Drameh
Adam Forshaw
Crysencio Summerville
Leo Hjelde
Daniel James
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