Football: Saints pass poor Arsenal

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The Independent Online
Southampton. . .2

Arsenal. . . . .0

SOUTHAMPTON'S best result of the season was a product of what their manager declared to be their season's best performance. And, further to surprise the crowd, they did it with a marvellous passing game that only senior Saints supporters would have seen before.

Considering the novelty of Southampton's approach, it was hardly surprising that the odd pass went astray. Here, though, they were let off the hook by a lethargic Arsenal side who looked happy to save the Saints' skins when they would normally have skinned them alive. Until he finally caught up with the pace of the game, the young winger Mark Flatts was particularly guilty of giving away possession and, up front, Ian Wright looked an angry shadow of the man who put two hat-tricks past Southampton last season.

Southampton's first goal, however, was, in its multiple-pass construction, all their own very fine work. In its finish, though, Arsenal will be kicking themselves for letting Neil Maddison rise, pretty well unopposed, to head just inside the right post.

The Gunners weren't helped by an injury to Lee Dixon, though John Jensen's eventual introduction into midfield (David Hillier moving to right back) led to a period of supremacy which Wright and Kevin Campbell did their best to squander. Wright fired over from 10 yards and, given a chance to atone when Campbell dragged a simple shot against the post, he blasted the rebound once more into the crowd.

Here was the England striker at his profligate and petulant worst, his frustration unleashed in a series of ugly encounters with Kenny Monkou from which he was lucky to escape with only a yellow card. And to cap it all, he hit a late penalty against the bar. The crowd greeted this last miss with tumultuous applause, but really they had had plenty of their own to cheer.

The second goal in particular was a picture, the master stroke - a fine through ball - being applied by Matthew Le Tissier. Maddison ran through, seemed to show too much of the ball to David Seaman, but passed across the erring goalkeeper for Iain Dowie to tap in.

The remarkable scoreline could have been stretched further as, for the next 15 minutes, Southampton over-ran their opponents, their fine passing game still very much intact. Even Arsenal's finest moment - an inch-perfect lob-volley from Paul Merson which demanded the very best from goalkeeper Tim Flowers - was not enough to prevent their third consecutive League defeat.

Southampton: T Flowers; J Kenna, M Adams, T Hurlock, R Hall, K Monkou, M Le Tissier (N Banger, 70 min), G Cockerill (P Groves, 73 min), I Dowie, N Maddison, F Benali. Sub not used: I Andrews (gk). Manager: I Branfoot.

Arsenal: D Seaman; L Dixon (J Jensen, 25 min), S Morrow, D Hillier, S Bould, T Adams, R Parlour, I Wright, K Campbell, P Merson, M Flatts (A Limpar, 70 min). Sub not used: A Miller (gk). Manager: G Graham.

Referee: J Key (Sheffield).

Goals: Maddison (1-0, 16 min); Dowie (2-0, 53 min).

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