Football: Defenders still crazy after all these years

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The Independent Online
By Stephen Brenkley

Southampton 2 Everton 1

IT IS to be supposed that one day defenders will learn. On the other hand, it is to be hoped that they will not. How much poorer the game would be were they suddenly to realise the potentially catastrophic consequences of bringing down a forward as he bears down on goal with only the keeper to beat. The upshot would be fewer penalties, fewer sendings-off and, most treasured of all, fewer indignant managers.

There were two textbook examples at The Dell and while the match probably hinged on the outcome of the first it was the second which seemed to offer conclusive evidence that defenders have not only failed to learn but cannot help themselves. The reactions of the managers were also contrastingly orthodox, one annoyed with the law and with the referee for upholding it, the other resigned but exasperated with his player.

In the 38th minute Mickael Madar galloped clear of the Southampton defence (offside looked feasible but that is another law) and had only to push the ball past goalkeeper Paul Jones to give Everton a deserved lead.

Ken Monkou took no chances with the legal possibilities and bundled over the French forward. Monkou, having seen red, was immediately shown it by referee David Elleray. Don Hutchison's penalty was powerfully struck but Jones palmed it away.

For an hour Southampton, reduced to 10, kept Everton at a distance without losing their own ambition. It was then that Matthew Le Tissier delicately threaded a ball through for Egil Ostenstad. The Norwegian raced on and was about to steady himself when Slaven Bilic was guilty of forgetting history both ancient and recent. Le Tissier's penalty in to the right- hand corner was sublime. It was his 24th in succession and his 45th successful conversion for the club in 46 attempts.

Three minutes from time Ostenstad increased Southampton's lead with a far-post header. In injury time Carl Tiler nodded the ball past Jones, vulnerable for the first time.

Goals: Le Tissier pen (68) 1-0; Ostenstad (86) 2-0; Tiler (90) 2-1.

Southampton (4-4-2): Jones; Dodd, Monkou, Lundekvam, Benali; Palmer, Le Tissier (Dryden, 76), Oakley, Beresford; Ostenstad, Hirst. Substitutes not used: Richardson, Slater, Williams, Moss (gk).

Everton (3-5-2): Myrhe; Bilic, Watson, Tiler; O'Kane, Oster, Hutchison, Farrelly (Cadamarteri 72), Ball; Barmby, Madar. Substitutes not used: Dunne, Allen, Jevons, Gerard (gk).

Sendings-off: Southampton: Monkou. Everton: Bilic.

Bookings: Southampton: Beresford. Everton: Tiler, Hutchison, Madar.

Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).

Man of match: Jones.

Attendance: 15,101.