Pre Season Friendly
RCD Espanyol 1
St Mary’s Stadium
Having kicked off the competitive season last night with a trip to Romsey Town, I thought I had drawn the curtains on the pre season friendlies for another campaign, how wrong could I be.
A last minute plan to watch Southampton take on Spanish La Liga side RCD Espanyol didn’t take much persuading, giving me a chance to spend some time with a good friend before he moves out of the city later in the week.
This was the second season in a row that Saints had welcomed Espanyol to St Mary’s. I was there last time out as a 1-1 draw was the score just under a year ago. In terms of visiting the ground, I have lost count how many games I have seen at the 32,505 capacity venue since moving to the city in 2012.
Finishing work at 19:00 meant for a mad rush into the city centre, parked up and in our seats with seconds to go before the game kicked off was superb timing on my behalf!
In comparison to the other stadia I have visited this campaign, St Mary’s is in a different world to the likes of Twerton Park or The Elliotts Arena for example.
Built in 2001, the ground is a relatively recent build but what an awesome place it is. I speak to far too many ‘hard core’ fans who couldn’t think of anything worse than sitting in a Premier League ground watching world class players but football at all levels is good enough for me, the players on show tonight just made it look so easy and it was a pleasure seeing some players in the flesh who were fresh back from Euro 2016.
With all the corners filled, giving it a very enclosed feel, on a Premier League match day the atmosphere is spine tingling at times but on this occasion, with less than half the seats filled, it was a fairly tame affair with the odd ‘Oh When the Saints’ chant echoing around the ground.
St Mary’s is perfect for the Premier League, has everything it needs in terms of great views from every seat, massive concourse with TVs and refreshments and has a pretty healthy capacity, not to mention that Southampton is a mad footballing city with the fans bleeding red and white.
I had tickets up the corner, next to where the away fans would usually live (no Espanyol fans in sight tonight), on row AA it felt like I was a long way from the action, but that is because I have been used to being in the thick of it in recent weeks.
A strong Southampton side kicked off their La Liga double header with a 1-1 draw with RCD Espanyol ahead of Sunday’s clash with Athletic Club.
Former Manchester City striker Felipe Caicedo levelled from the spot in the second half after Oriol Romeu had headed the home team into the lead on the half hour mark.
New signing Nathan Redmond was in the middle of all the early chances for the home side when he accidentally got in the way of James Ward-Prowse’s effort on goal after ten minutes.
The former Norwich winger then forced a great save from Espanyol ‘keeper Pau Lopez just eight minutes later.
Oriol Romeu was the unlikely source of the opening goal when a lovely in-swinging corner from Ward-Prowse found the Spaniard who glanced the ball into the bottom corner to score against his former club.
Southampton were dominant in the first half and Dusan Tadic nearly doubled the lead but Lopez got up well to tip the free-kick around the post.
The second half gave Saints fans the chance to see two more summer recruits in the form of ‘keeper Alex McCarthy and midfielder Pierre-Emile Højbjerg.
The visitors were granted a golden opportunity on 69 minutes when Virgil Van Dijk brought down Leo Baptistao in the box for a penalty. Powerful frontman Caicedo stepped up to calmly send McCarthy the wrong way and level the score.
Charlie Austin would be cursing his luck five minutes later when a well weighted cross from Cuco Martina found the former QPR man but his header was wide of the goal.
Espanyol had done very little to worry Saints but they did nearly take the lead on 79 minutes from a corner but Steven Davis was there to clear off the line.
Southampton made a few more changes in the closing minutes to end what was a good run out for both sides at the league season gets closer.
2016/17 Games: 13
2016/17 Grounds: 15
Total Grounds Visited: 157