A cold and windy Saturday evening saw Aston Villa head down south to St Mary’s Stadium to face off against an impressive Southampton side.
We were on the wrong end of that Saints side last time we met, but there was more than just revenge in the air tonight, there were also some lagging questions about how we still managed to lose to Burnley in the last one.
We might also get to see Morgan Sanson for the first time, as our most recent capture was named on the bench.
It was quite an end to end start and both sides looked pretty lively but the first bone of contention was a long winded VAR review for a possible handball by Matty Cash – and surprisingly it wasn’t given. After everything we’ve seen this year from VAR, I wouldn’t have quibbled at that one – I think I’m in shock.
There’s no denying this was poor from us though and Southampton were clearly on top – the only positive I could see is it again showed how much we’ve improved at the back as it wasn’t that long ago we’d have been well behind by the 40th minute.
But Villa are Villa, and a great little header from an otherwise anonymous Ross Barkley gave us the lead with four minutes remaining in the half. Despite their dominance, our goal was the first shot on target apparently and we ended the half with three whilst Emi was untested.
Second half we were mostly comfortable but didn’t really threaten to extend our lead and in the final 20 odd minutes we got Southampton’s onslaught and how we didn’t concede is a minor miracle in my mind.
That has got to be the longest 10 minutes of my life and serious questions will be asked when it came to why we kept attacking and didn’t manage the game by hitting and holding the corners, and moreso, despite players struggling and being out on their legs, not a single change was made by Dean Smith. Not even staggered substitutes to break up their momentum and give everyone a small breather.
The attack ethos is great, I applaud it, but not when inviting result suicide and I haven’t personally been that uncomfortable in watching in a hell of a long time.
And the inevitable stoppage time goal came so we had more adventures with VAR. Again it bizarrely favoured us, and despite it being another fantastic save from Emi Martinez…I’m sorry…but Danny Ings was not offside and Southampton fans will now be feeling what we’ve felt many times since this idiotic technology (sic) has been introduced.
We then finally make a substitute.
I won’t overly complain as it’s about time we had some luck, but how Southampton didn’t win that or at least take a point is going to confuse me for the rest of my life.
The game shows so many positives and so many improvements, but it also highlights how far we need to go, and that includes game management from both the players and the manager. The end of that did not need to be heart attack inducing.
With that said, winning ugly is an art and I think we’ve just reinvented it.
St Mary's Stadium
30/01/2021 8:00 pm
Referee: Lee Mason