Harry Arter launched a penalty into space, denying Bournemouth a first-ever win at Southampton.
So that’s that. This game was threatening to turn into a real stinker, but the last quarter was pretty entertaining. Bournemouth have never won at Southampton, but they should have today. They were gifted the softest of penalties, but Harry Arter slipped, kicked the ball with both feet, and sent it high into the stand. It was the second half of his ersatz David Beckham tribute act, and in that sense the more successful part: earlier on, he tried to score from the halfway line. Saints remain the top dogs in the south, then, but both teams are comfortable enough in mid table. Last word to Julian Le Saux: “I bet you thought nobody was reading your commentary. There are actually millions of us out here, hanging on your every word, but we’ve all been keeping quiet as a joke! April fool!”
90 min +2: Smith stands over it … and blasts it miles over the bar, an awful effort.
90 min +1: Fraser goes on a slalom run down the middle, and is bundled over from behind by Romeu. That’s the first booking of the match, and a free kick near the left corner of the Saints D.
90 min: There will be three added minutes.
89 min: Wilshere tries to Gazza his way into the Bournemouth box down the right. He’s easily hustled off the ball. But it’s the visitors who are finishing much the stronger.
88 min: Arter nearly makes up for the absurd penalty miss by sending a swerving shot towards the top right from 25 yards. It’s a lovely, sweet strike, but Forster tips it away at full stretch. That would have been a pearler, and some story.
86 min: Smith clatters into the busy Boufal out on the left. A free kick, and a chance to load the Bournemouth box. Bertrand’s delivery isn’t up to much, allowing Pugh to head clear purposefully.
85 min: Redmond makes good down the inside-right channel and sees his long-range effort deflected over the bar for a corner. From the set piece, Boufal twists and turns down the right, and sends a fierce cross in from a tight angle. Boruc does well to fist clear.
83 min: McQueen bursts down the left and does extremely well to dig out a cross from a tight position. Cook heads clear with Long winding his neck back behind him. Marvellous football all round.
81 min: Tadic is replaced by McQueen.
80 min: Afobe swans in from the right and sends a wild effort into the stand behind the goal. Remember: Bournemouth have never won at Southampton.
79 min: Arter slips as he reaches the ball. His left toe moves it half a turn forward, and his right blooters it miles over the bar! Beckhamesque!
78 min: Tadic loops long down the middle. Boruc comes out of his area and, under pressure from Romeu and Tadic, batters clear. Wilshere, on the counter, slides a pass down the right for Fraser, who enters the area and runs into the hanging arm of Bertrand. Jon Moss points to the spot! That’s a very generous penalty. There’s not much in that at all.
76 min: Bournemouth have an extra body in midfield now, and they look so much happier. A collective spring in their step, they’re first to everything right now. Saints look a little rattled at this sudden turnaround in the flow of the game.
74 min: More nonsense in the Saints area! Pugh sends Daniels scampering away down the left. Daniels returns the ball. Pugh must score, with time on the penalty spot. But his low shot is blocked, and after some pinball stylings, a clearance is made.
72 min: Chaos in the Saints box! First Fraser very nearly bustles clear down the middle. He’s crowded out, but the ball breaks back to Smith, who rushes in from the right and creams a shot off the base of the left-hand post from 25 yards! The rebound falls to Pugh, who can’t sort his feet out. Saints survive. But how?!
70 min: King is replaced by Arsenal and the London Media’s Jack Wilshere.
69 min: Soares slips a ball down the right for Tadic, who turns and chips a gorgeous ball further down the channel for Long. The Saints striker strides into the box, draws Boruc, and sends a floater over the keeper and inches wide of the goal. As near as anyone’s come.
67 min: A dreadful loose pass in the centre circle by King sends Saints on the attack. Boufal spins and spins down the left, all along the byline, and very nearly into the six-yard box. Francis does very well to usher him out of play just before a real chance presents itself.
65 min: Soares swings a fine cross in from the right. Long can’t rise above Cook to meet it with his head, eight yards out. Where’s Rodriguez when you need him?
64 min: Saints make a double change: Ward-Prowse and an unhappy Rodriguez off; Boufal and Long on.
62 min: Saints go up the other end and nearly punish Bournemouth for that ludicrous miss. Redmond sends a swerving shot straight at Boruc, who parries. The ball breaks right to Tadic, who attempts to steer a shot into the left-hand side of the net, but sends it well wide. But this is a lot better! More of this, please, teams!
61 min: What a miss! A simple long ball, with Saints asleep. King beats Yoshida to a high ball and races down the right. Bournemouth are suddenly two on one, with Afobe in the middle, all clear! The pass inside is fine. Afobe takes a heavy touch, and prods an uncertain effort past Forster and wide of the left-hand post. That was appalling!
59 min: Bournemouth hoick it long for Afobe, who makes a token effort at chasing it down the right, knowing full well he’s got no chance of beating Yoshida to the prize.
57 min: Did Arter try to score from inside his own half there? Please say no. It wasn’t clear what else he could have been trying to do, though. A through ball? But there was nobody there. The ball barely reaches the edge of the Saints area, anyway. Forster tidies up and has the good grace not to guffaw in the theatrical style.
56 min: This is a pretty miserable game. To think the poor home fans have waited the best part of two months for this.
54 min: After a long period of sterile possession in the middle of the park, Saints burst down the inside-right channel through Davis. He flips a ball inside for Rodriguez, on the right-hand corner of the six-yard box, but the striker’s gone too early and the flag goes up for offside before he can get a shot away.
52 min: Still raining.
50 min: Redmond skedaddles down the right wing before cutting inside and spraying a delightful crossfield pass towards Tadic on the left. Eventually the ball’s slipped towards Bertrand near the corner flag, and he whips a cross towards the near post. Rodriguez is sniffing about, but can’t quite connect.
49 min: Smith makes a bit of ground down the right but, with King and Afobe in the middle screaming for a pass, his cross doesn’t beat the first man Stephens.
48 min: A subdued atmosphere at St Mary’s now. Nothing much going on, you see.
46 min: With less than a minute of the half gone, Surman is hooked for Arter. Slightly strange. Surman tweaked something while miskicking in front of goal towards the end of the first half; it looks as though he’s tried to run it off, but couldn’t continue.
Right-o, here we go again! Bournemouth get the ball rolling for the second half. Neither side has made a change. Afobe goes up for a high ball, and looks to have come back down to earth, bang on his coccyx. Ooyah oof. He’s up and about again soon enough.
Half-time quiz. Events at Madeira Airport earlier this week will have no doubt reminded Saints fans of the great Ted Bates statue debacle. Anyway, poor old Cristiano Ronaldo is the latest victim of a professional sculptor phoning it in, and to mark the occasion, we knocked up the following quiz. Enjoy!
Related: Who are the footballers celebrated in these statues? – quiz
The half ends with a couple of corners for Saints, who push hard for the goal their overall dominance has deserved. But it doesn’t come. Not a classic, but that doesn’t mean the second 45 can’t be the half of the season. Faith! See you in ten minutes!
45 min: Saints come straight back at Bournemouth, Rodriguez chasing after a long punt down the inside-right channel. He takes a stride into the area and sends a sweet dipping volley over Boruc and towards the top left. But the keeper manages to arc backwards and tip the ball over the bar. The corner leads to nothing, though Yoshida falls to the floor under pressure from Afobe, and there’s a weak shout for a penalty kick. Nope.
44 min: Gosling and Tadic get tangled up down the Saints right. The ball pings out of play, and that’s a corner for the hosts. The set piece is whipped towards the near post by Tadic. Yoshida rises high, and attempts to steer a header into the top left, but sends it flashing wide.
42 min: Forster looks to be in full-on flap mode today. Here he comes racing through a crowded area to punch clear a long Fraser hoof. All he achieves is the clattering of his own man Stephens to the ground. The punch was awful, and very nearly broke to Afobe, 12 yards out. But it’s eventually cleared. And it looks as though the momentarily confused Stephens will be all right after a fashion.
40 min: Some scrappy rubbish on the edge of the Saints area. Neither King nor Afobe can get a serious shot away, and the danger, such as it was, is gone.
38 min: Ward-Prowse busies himself down the inside-right channel, and pulls a pass across for Tadic on the edge of the Bournemouth box. Tadic takes a touch, shifts himself to the left, and clips a lovely shot off the outside of the left-hand post. Goal kick, but a few inches to the left, and that was whistling into the net past the rooted Boruc.
37 min: Davis tries to up the tempo. A flick on the edge of the Bournemouth area doesn’t quite come off. So he picks up the rebound and sends Bertrand scampering towards the byline down the right. A low, driven cross is hacked clear by Cook, with Romeu lurking.
35 min: Surman injured himself in making that lunge. He’ll be OK to continue by the looks of it, but there’s a couple of minutes of treatment.
33 min: … Francis heads weakly goalwards. Forster comes off his line and flaps. Surman sticks out a leg, six yards from goal. He doesn’t connect, but Forster misses the ball altogether, and is relieved when Davis clears off the line.
32 min: King strips the ball from a dozing Ward-Prowse in the centre circle. He tears off down the left, and is tugged back by the Saints man. No booking. What a nice man Jon Moss is. A free kick, though, and the lump into the box is headed behind for a corner on the right by Stephens, with Fraser lurking. And from the set piece…
30 min: Bournemouth are working their way into this game at long last. So much so that Pugh attempts, and nearly perfectly executes, a Cruyff Turn out on the left touchline. Soares isn’t fooled and puts a stop to his gallop. But this is a little better from the Cherries, who are finally enjoying their share of midfield possession.
28 min: Daniels earns another corner for the visitors, down the left off Soares. The set piece is punched weakly upfield by Forster. Gosling is in space, 20 yards out. Anything on target, through a crowded box, could cause trouble, but he skelps a dismal effort over the crossbar.
27 min: Bournemouth go up the other end and win their own corner. That proves a nonsense as well. This game hasn’t quite sparked into life yet. Plenty of time.
25 min: It’s raining quite a lot. Saints stroke it around the back awhile. All of a sudden, Ward-Prowse bursts down the middle, feeds Rodriguez further along the channel, and it’s a corner. The award is met with ironic cheering at goal volume. That’s the most fun Southampton can extract from the situation, for the actual set piece is a waste of time.
23 min: Saints have been well on top, but they nearly gave up the first big chance of the match here. A long ball down the Bournemouth left sees King scamper into a lot of space. For a second, it looks like he’ll be breaking into the Saints area and shooting, but Stephens comes across to cover magnificently, snuffing out the danger.
22 min: Redmond is a talent. He bursts through a small space down the middle of the park, and looks to slip Bertrand clear down the right, but Pugh clips him to the floor. Just a free kick; Jon Moss really is in a kindly mood this evening. The resulting free kick is lofted towards the Bournemouth box, then Romeu cushions a tame header straight into the arms of Boruc.
19 min: Redmond sails down the left wing with ease. He cuts inside and passes square towards Rodriguez. The ball doesn’t reach Rodriguez; rather it’s deflected towards the left-hand corner of the six-yard box. Rodriguez is the first to react, and very nearly smashes a shot goalwards from a tight angle. But Cook is over to cover, and that’s a corner. Or at least it should be. The referee points for a goal kick.
17 min: Bournemouth are second to everything right now. Tadic slips a ball down the left for Rodriguez, who drops a shoulder to power inside, and blasts a shot towards the near post. Boruc stoops to gobble up the shot. It’s surely just a matter of time before Saints score; Bournemouth simply haven’t turned up yet. That international break really has jiggered their rhythm.
15 min: Redmond tears down the left in a fever, and whips a low curling ball into the Bournemouth box. Rodriguez is free! He puts the ball in the net, at the second attempt, after Boruc smothers his first sidefoot from the penalty spot. But the flag’s gone up for offside. It’s the correct decision. Bournemouth were ludicrously open there.
14 min: All a bit scrappy. What can you do.
12 min: Bournemouth are struggling to retain any sort of meaningful possession. Gosling sloppily concedes the ball to Romeu, who sends Rodriguez scampering into a lot of space in the Bournemouth half. But having drifted out to the right, and with Redmond free in the middle, he hesitates and the danger is gone. That looked a promising break for a few seconds.
10 min: Cook requires a bit of treatment after over-stretching in a tackle on Rodriguez. It looks like he’ll be OK to continue, but Eddie Howe looked concerned for a minute there.
9 min: A long ball down the middle is headed by Rodriguez out to the right, allowing the busy Tadic to stride into the box and lash a low shot across Boruc and out of play to the left of goal. This is all Southampton.
8 min: Tadic, playmaking from deep, rakes a ball down the inside-right channel for Rodriguez. The Saints striker nearly breaks clear but Daniels is on his shoulder and the danger is snuffed out.
6 min: A free kick for Bournemouth out on the left, and a chance to load the box. Fraser’s free kick is easily cleared by Yoshida. Redmond looks to punish Bournemouth on the break, but he’s tugged back by Smith as he races upfield. You’ve seen bookings for that, too. The referee is being very lenient during these opening exchanges.
5 min: Saints have started brightly, though. Ward-Prowse crosses from the right for Tadic; not quite. Then Tadic curls one in from the left and nearly finds Rodriguez, who can’t connect properly from ten yards.
4 min: The ball drops to Tadic, 25 yards out. There’s no real danger, until Francis inexplicably drops off instead of closing down his man. It’s a preposterous decision, and gives Tadic time and space to step forward and line up a shot from the edge of the box. Given the generous opportunity, he probably should score. Or at least get his shot on target. But instead he sends a witless blooter high into the crowd.
2 min: Fraser looks to turn Bertrand down the right, and is upended from behind for his trouble. A little more time on the clock and you suspect that could have been a yellow card. But it’s early, so there’s no fuss. The resulting free kick is in the middle of the park, and leads to nothing.
And we’re off! Saints get the ball rolling. And then there’s a bit of head tennis in the middle of the park. The home supporters giving it plenty. Hey, they’ve been patient, they’ve earned the right.
The teams are out! Southampton are in their favoured red and white stripes, so Bournemouth can’t get away with their usual red and black garb. The visitors are in second-choice blue. Pompey blue, if you fancy ratcheting it up a notch. There’s a fine atmosphere at St Mary’s. No wonder, since it’s a local derby, though in addition the hosts have waited a long while to sing their songs: Saints haven’t played a home game since West Ham won 3-1 here in early February.
Claude Puel speaks! “It is always difficult to play just every two weeks. Bournemouth have had just three players away for the international break, so were able to work with everyone. By contrast, we have had 15 players away. It is always difficult. But it’s important we keep focus. The statistic [that Bournemouth have never won at Southampton] is not for me. I think it is important to keep a good focus, they are a good technical team, and I respect them.”
Eddie Howe speaks, and begins by addressing why London media obsession Jack Wilshere remains on the bench. “The last few games, we’ve created chances and looked solid at the back. The players are in good shape. We’re confident we can carry on where we left off. We’re aware of our record here [Bournemouth have never won at Southampton] and it’s something we want to break. We’re fighting for points.”
It’s pretty much as you were for both teams. Southampton make the one change from the side sent out to a narrow 2-1 defeat at Tottenham before the international break. And it’s enforced. Jay Rodriguez takes the place of the injured Manolo Gabbiadini.
Bournemouth meanwhile name the same XI who started the 2-0 victory over Swansea a couple of weeks ago. It’s seven points from the last nine for the Cherries, so hey, if it ain’t broke.
Southampton: Forster, Soares, Stephens, Yoshida, Bertrand, Davis, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Tadic, Redmond, Rodriguez.
Subs: Clasie, Long, Caceres, Boufal, Hojbjerg, McQueen, Hassen.
Bournemouth: Boruc, A Smith, Francis, S Cook, Daniels, Fraser, Surman, Gosling, Pugh, King, Afobe.
Subs: Arter, Brad Smith, Stanislas, Allsop, Wilshere, Ibe, Cargill.
They take turns being top dog down south. Portsmouth were the dominant force during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Southampton became the daddies in the 1970s and 1980s. Portsmouth were in charge again during the 2000s. And now, should Bournemouth win at St Mary’s this evening in the Dorset-Hampshire derby, the Cherries will leapfrog the Saints in the Premier League pecking order and take over as reigning kings of the south coast. Temporarily at least. It’s all to play for!
Of course, this Saints-Cherries rivalry, while very much local, is not particularly intense. Not compared to the vicious Saints-Pompey affair, anyway. Little in the way of history between the clubs, you see. Since Bournemouth reached the top flight for the first time in 2015, they’ve beaten Saints once and lost to them twice. Other than that, Saints did the double over them in League One in 2010/11, and knocked them out of the League Cup that same year too. Beforehand, Bournemouth triumphed in a League Cup tie in 1987, but then we have to go back another thirty years or so for some semi-regular Third Division action. Here, the events of 1957/58 look particularly tasty: Bournemouth won 5-2 at Dean Court, while Saints triumphed 7-0 at the Dell.