Southampton 2-2 Fulham

If you think you had a bad day, pity poor Jos Hooiveld. Hooield, trying to make his way in football, told the Southampton website before the game: “you look at my record this season, giving away an own goal and two penalties in three games which doesn’t look good….” Then he added to this dubious start with a pair of deflections, one of which was officially awarded as his very own goal, the other to Kieran Richardson. Poor man.

The game that reminded me of a 2-2 draw in Derby, in which we played a terrible team, went ahead late on via a deflection, then conceded an equaliser almost instantly. Southampton weren’t nearly as bad as Derby, but they were there for the taking, and it’s disappointing that we didn’t take all three points.

The early goal, of course, was crucial. With that Southampton were happy to sit a little, conceding no real space. So Fulham worked the ball around slowly and clumsily, only occasionally getting the width they’d need to make something happen. Southampton ended up playing their third choice right-back and you wouldn’t have known it from the way Fulham attacked. It was a first half to forget.

In the second half we had the intriguing sight of Bryan Ruiz running around almost constantly. He didn’t touch the ball very much in 15 minutes of Fulham possession, which raised questions. Was he trying too hard? Was he just making terrible runs? Were our players looking elsewhere? I remember Match of the Day in years gone by showing how good players make space by not running, waiting, then making decisive movements. Berbatov, of course, is a master of this. But here was Ruiz describing neverending circles on the St Mary’s turf in a bid to be involved, and of course exactly the opposite happened.

Then all of a sudden he did start getting involved and Fulham looked all the better for it. If I, a man in the stands, would have one piece of advice to the experts at Fulham, it would’ve been to tell Ruiz to play higher up the pitch, closer to Rodallega, and to then get him the ball a lot more. As it was Rodallega spent a game chasing nothingness (the occasional lead-footed Hangeland clomp notwithstanding) and the wide men weren’t involved in coherent attacking moves enough (although they did play quite well in isolation). The Southampton defence, made up as it was of new signings and reserves, wasn’t tested nearly enough.

If we weren’t going to do anything around the D the space was always going to come from our full-backs, given the way the game was going, and slowly we saw Riise starting to take more chances on the overlap. Ultimately this didn’t really work for him but it was the right idea. Down the other flank Reither was still too reluctant to take responsibility I felt, not really committing defenders before making his pass, for instance (Ruiz *is* good at this, Dembele was incredible at this) and therefore not really helping Duff as he might’ve, but credit where it’s due, he kept chugging on forward and was rewarded with the assist for Kieran Richardson’s almost winner.

I’ve got ahead of myself. Southampton went ahead early from a looping header from a corner. It was one of those “Oh really?” goals where you have to shake your head a bit, so soft and not the sort of concession a defence like ours makes. Trouble was, it nearly happened again, Saints having another goal chalked off following what must have been a push on Schwarzer, and then nearly scored *again* when one of our men cleared off the line. All of these from corners. It was disconcerting, and seemed to get to our defenders who spent most of the game playing as if it was the first day of pre-season training, or indeed as if they were being asked to pass a rugby ball. No, there was little movement ahead of them, but in such situations a hoof into space is rarely the right pass. Zat Knight would’ve been shaking his head at some of our distribution from the back.

And Southampton could’ve had another on top of all that, Lambert sliced wide when we’d been opened up wide.

So the second half could only get better. After the aforementioned 15 minute spell of good if aimless possession (I say aimless, but at least we had some tempo now), Ruiz hit the post with a free-kick cross, and Rodallega drew a fine save from the Southampton goalkeeper. We were well in the ascendency now and a goal seemed reasonably likely. Sure enough it came, Riise given clear sight, his shot was (as ever) not quite struck correctly and going wide, but our friend Hooiveld stuck out a boot and diverted the ball home.

We were well on top now and good work down the right fed Riether, whose cross was knocked home by an ecstatic Richardson (via Hooiveld), and that appeared to be that. But then as time was running out Jose Fonte headed in his second for a thoroughly deflating equaliser, and that was just about that.

Ultimately away points are nothing to get upset about and in the cold light of day the fact that we did control so much of the match could be considered a good thing, but we weren’t good enough in a lot of areas, and that will concern Martin Jol.

13 thoughts on “Southampton 2-2 Fulham

  1. Thanks for that Rich. Based only on 10 mins of MOTD:
    – their disallowed goal should have stood. Schwarzer tripped over himself.
    – Schwarzer looked awful. His distribution has always been weak, but he surpassed himself, and compounded it with complete lack of authority in the box.
    – Hangeland had a shocker. He has had a few bad games already this season. Something is wrong. Is it the captaincy? His contract? Jol? He wants one last big payday? If Senderos put in a performance like that, he’d be drummed out of the club.

    1. We’re you pissed during those ten minutes? Didn’t see this from stands but on MOTD it was as clear as daylight that Schwarzer was tripped by puncheon

      1. Nice polite response. My viewing of the replay was that there was minimal contact. The commentators said the same thing. And to quote you another opinion from the messageboards : “Have you seen a replay of the incident? I initially thought Schwarzer had been fouled but on second viewing there was minimal contact”

  2. We looked like a team that had lost its best players in the summer and whose replacements were injured.

    Realistically, this midfield and attack was second string (bar Ruiz) so the only real surprise is that we came back from a goal down and nearly won the game! Away from home, how often could you have said that over the last few seasons?

    Southampton fans must be worrying a bit – we played as bad a 1st half as we will this season and yet were 3 mins away from taking all three points. They wont get a much easier chance than that to claim all three points at home and they blew it. Lots of people lauding newly promoted teams for playing expansive football, but unfortunately it doesnt get you particularly far.

    So where does this leave Fulham? 10 points out of 7 games leaves us on course for a 54 point season and we have played a good mixture of sides AND fewer home games than away games. Villa at home in a few weeks with almost an entire squad and we should start to see what this team can really do. I am still licking my lips at the idea of Ruiz and Berbatov starting even if the former is currently being tarred and feathered for ‘not putting in enough effort’

  3. Great to see your reports again Rich. Just one point about Ruiz, being at the game it was really obvious to me why he started running everywhere, the midfield were simply not linking up to the attack therefore forcing him to come back and try to get the ball. He was effectively doing 2 player’s jobs. Once he got the ball he then had to link up and support Rodellega. I really felt for him as the stick he was getting from the Fulham fans was a result of him trying to compensate for the pitiful midfield performance (honestly, I like both Baird and Sidwell but the passing in the midfield was bordering on the incompetent-until Sidwell came off). If he hadn’t tried to do this the 2nd half performance would not have materialised. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    1. Spot on! There was zero creativity from the middle; it was so painful to watch. I wouldn’t give CB or SS much stick though as I think the whole team is still adjusting..

      Most worrying thing about yesterday though was how incapable we were with dealling with dead ball crosses..

  4. Watched it on the box and the commentators were crying out for Ruiz to get forward more. He ended up dropping deep, between Sidwell and Baird, far too often to play that Dembele role of pushing the ball 10 yards further forwards. Couple that with Rodellega’s reluctance to drop off the last man meant a massive hole in the center, with Southampton happy to cut out any passes going through the gaps.

    We looked much more aggressive once Karagounis came on. He was far more mobile in the middle, constantly popping up with a pass or two, leaving Ruiz to do his thing around the box.

    On another note, are we finally having a season from hell with injuries? Or are we just wrapping Petric/Berba in cotton wool? Same happened last year with the perpetual AJ/Zamora injuries.

  5. I would definitely agree that Schwarzer hasn’t been at the top of his game lately, but it was pretty clear to me that the Southhampton player blatantly stuck out his foot to trip our GK on the play that mike hopkins is referencing. I want to like Ruiz, but I’m ready to see a more complete performance instead of the flashes of brilliance he’s been showing. He continues to be caught in possession too much. It seems like he either thinks he’s a better dribbler than he is, or thinks he has more time on the ball than what’s actually available. Maybe expectations are too high post Moussa Dembélé.

    1. I think that Ruiz needs a consistent defined role in the team which is something he hasn’t yet had.

      At present it’s needs must but I suspect that he’d be strongest as a direct replacement for Dempsey. Roaming behind a striker with defensive duties optional.

  6. Given the absence of Berbatov and Petric I thought before the game that we would do well to draw, and yet the game was there for the taking. Yes, we are maddeningly inconsistent at the moment, but at our best (especially with Berbatov), we cause opponents real problems.

    Ruiz is a puzzle and a worry though. When a simple pass is on he delays it, sometimes getting caught, sometimes just making life harder for the recipient. It’s as though he thinks he could or should do something special every time he gets the ball. Not seeing games live I find it hard to judge his awareness of the movement around him, but one way or another the problem seems to be in his head.

    One other point: I was impressed with the way Fox could make his corners and free kicks really fizz into the danger area. Ours (especially from Duff) appear to float in – much easier for the defence to deal with.

    1. Agree – I was also thinking something along the lines of “When a simple pass is on he delays it, sometimes getting caught, sometimes just making life harder for the recipient.” Not just Ruiz but a few players. Also it seems that the ball is often played with too much power to the recipient quite often meaning they have to control the ball and then use it. I love nothing better then a well placed pass just h of the player running on to it, top teams do it all the time but with us it is very occasional. Looking forward to the Villa game when we have a couple of the players back – especially Berbatov of course.

  7. Other folks here have hit on most of what I wanted to say, so cheers everyone! That said, I can’t resist a couple rambling thoughts:
    – I feel like I watched us lose this game three or four times last year, so as much as it stings, I think part of that is our expectations biting us.
    – Can anybody direct me to any good reading about the theory of the right/left back position? I am curious about Riether. In the first half, S’ton jammed the ball down the left and Riether seemed constantly out of position to close down the crosses, as he has been at some other times this season. That said, I don’t know enough about positioning to know if it’s actually his fault, or something else going on. The whole scenario reminds me of Riise last season — Riether likes to rampage forward, and looks pretty good doing so, but in defense things get shaky. Riise had a rocky start too, but eventually things settled down, though I never feel 100% safe defensively on his watch.
    – It seemed to me there were multiple scenarios that led to Ruiz running around like mad. One was that when he gave the ball away cheaply (as he sometimes did) he would pursue it like a man possessed — it seems possible he’s becoming self-conscious about this given the abuse he’s taken from the fans. (And I second the suggestion, made above, that he’s dwelling too long on the ball in some passing situations.) But it’s also true that for much of the game, there was an utter vacuum behind him in the midfield, and he had to drop back in order to get any touches at all.
    – Sidwell and Karagounis could not be more comically dissimilar in appearance. Sidwell wears an oversized jersey and tucks it into his shorts in the manner of one’s dad; his head is a bit on the narrow side, which I’ve always thought makes him look like a turtle emerging from his shell. Karagounis, in contrast, is masculine to the point of parody; like several of the European greats of his era (see Pirlo, Andrea) he looks like somebody you’d expect to find stealing your girl in a bar. But to his credit, he sauntered onto the field and suddenly we had a midfield again – he stiffened things up at the back, got forward with the ball, and was generally fearless, in contrast to Sidwell’s uncharacteristic timidity. He is not in any way the future, but I’m glad we have him.
    – Is Damien Duff the only Fulham player not to have had a bad game yet this year? I’m increasingly in awe of his fitness level.

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