EFL Cup Semi-Final first leg
St Mary’s Stadium
Another game at St Mary’s, my 50th to be precise since my first visit way back in September 2012 when I had moved to the city about four days prior to a League Cup game with Sheffield Wednesday.
Fast-forward five years and I am returning to St Mary’s for another League Cup game.
I couldn’t pass up the chance to watch a semi-final just 10 miles from my home and this would be the first time watching a semi-final of any major cup competition in England (unless you count the League Two play-offs in 2012!)
This game was supposed to be a good chance for my partner and I to catch up with two of my old university housemates, but due to strict ticketing rules about previous purchase history and all that ‘big club’ rubbish I was only able to get myself a ticket due to my friends and better half not being eligible to purchase a ticket.
So with social plans rearranged for another time I decided to be my usual antisocial self and head to the game alone. Don’t get me wrong, I like watching football with others, but I equally don’t mind attending a game on my own.
I left it a little late getting to the ground but after queuing to pick up my ticket and half queuing for a programme, I was fortunate to grab a free copy. It’s all about who you know in this game!
Anyway so I got my seat as the teams were coming out for the pre match handshakes, in the family stand for the first time ever and I have pretty much sat in every part of the ground now. Mostly in the Chapel block 15 but I have also stood up with the rowdy hard core fans in the Kingsland North/ North stand and been in the press area for a couple of U21 and U18 games in the past.
This wasn’t the first time I had see Saints versus Liverpool either, having watched LFC cruise to a 3-0 victory in March 2014 thanks to a brace from Luis Suarez and a penalty from Steven Gerrard.
It was also the second time I had seen a game at St Mary’s on January 11th when in 2014 an Adam Lallana strike was enough to see off West Brom in the Premier League. Funnily enough, the same Adam Lallana was lining up for Liverpool against his former employers tonight.
Nathan Redmond scored his most important Southampton goal to date when his strike gave the Saints a one-goal advantage over Liverpool in the EFL Cup semi-final. Claude Puel’s men will play the second leg at Anfield on Wednesday 25th January.
Liverpool had most of the ball in the opening minutes but were cautious in attack without causing too many problems.
On 18 minutes, Roberto Firmino forced a good save from Fraser Forster when he hit a solid shot at goal from Adam Lallana’s nod down.
At the other end a minute later, Loris Karius had to save low with his feet when Cedric found himself in an advanced position to cross for Redmond who was unmarked at the back post to take a touch and fire straight at the German goalkeeper.
From the follow up Ryan Bertrand tried a long-range effort but it was held with ease from Karius.
Saints did take the lead on 20 minutes when Estonian defender Ragnar Klavan missed the clearance from Dusan Tadic’s pass and the ball fell to Jay Rodriguez to play a little pass through the legs of Dejan Lovren to Redmond to slot past Karius.
The home side stayed strong and could have made it two before the break when Bertrand got the better of Lallana and Lucas Leiva before passing the ball to Tadic who put in a low cross to Redmond who hit it first time but Karius was there to push the ball away from goal.
Puel’s men sat behind the ball in the second half, becoming difficult to break down with Liverpool resorting to long-range efforts which were not testing Forster.
Saints could have scored again when they hit Liverpool on the break with a quick clearance up field. Redmond raced away before sliding a pass into Cedric in the box but instead of squaring to Rodriguez, the Portugal international went for goal and sliced the ball into the side netting after a lung-busting run.
The visitors looked shaky and Saints always looked like they could add to the score and the introduction of Shane Long was a positive move to try and double the lead.
With eight minutes left, the pace of Long was too much for Lucas and after leaving the Brazilian on the floor, Long found Redmond in the box and he tried a little chip over Karius which was dipping in before being cleared off the line by Lovren after taking a little touch off the crossbar.
Both sides are just 90 minutes away from a Wembley final and Puel’s men will have to be at their best to hold on to their advantage when the two sides meet at Anfield in two weeks time.
2016/17 Games: 78
2016/17 Grounds: 56
Total Grounds Visited: 149 (38)