Southampton 1 West Brom 0 match report: Adam Lallana’s a perfect Saint to make mother proud
West Brom's four-match unbeaten run came to an end with their new manager watching from the stands as Lallana netted winner
Members of the England coaching set up have been regulars at St Mary’s this season, but Roy Hodgson and the rest must have known something yesterday.
Even with a gap in the World Cup squad caused by last weekend’s injury to Theo Walcott and the chance to run the rule over some probables and possibles, they had the good sense to give this one a miss.
Adam Lallana scored the only goal of a poor game after 66 minutes, but Hodgson knows all about him, and few of the other candidates for a place on the plane to Brazil did themselves many favours.
One interested spectator was Pepe Mel, the newly-appointed West Bromwich Albion manager, who takes up his duties next week. The Spaniard saw his team defend well before Lallana’s goal but fail to trouble Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc until the dying seconds, when Shane Long missed a sitter.
So Southampton clung on to record only their second victory in 10 Premier League games, which is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the model that Albion have copied – taking on a manager who has raised hopes with a team in La Liga but then been sacked for failing to deliver on those new expectations, Saints manager Mauricio Pochettino with Espanyol and Mel with Real Betis.
“We’ve lacked solidity at the back,” Pochettino, who celebrates a year in charge of Southampton next Saturday, said. “Today we had that again after many [injury] problems, and have recovered that winning mentality. It’s great to get back to winning ways at home.
“I know [Pepe Mel] so well that he was my teacher when I got my Pro Licence with the Spanish FA. I wish him luck and I hope that he’s able to develop the playing style that he wants at West Bromwich. I hope he’s also lucky enough to find the sort of amazing squad that I was able to find here.”
West Bromwich caretaker Keith Downing’s last match in charge brought his first Premier League defeat after three draws and a victory, but he is glad to be stepping back into a support role next week. “I saw Pepe [on Friday], a warm man who wants to put some good new ideas, Spanish ideas, across and I look forward to working with him,” he said.
“I think he’d have seen us as an organised side but I think we were all disappointed with what we did with the ball. So I assume he’ll work on our possession and creativity.”
Asked whether he and Dean Kiely would remain at the club, despite reports in Spain that Mel still wants to bring in Spanish coaches to the Hawthorns, Downing said: “He has reassured me that he will embrace the current staff as we at Albion have always done.”
Albion routinely pulled nine or 10 men back behind the ball, restricting Southampton to long-range efforts. But after 66 minutes, for no apparent reason, the previously effective marking suddenly fell apart. Substitute Gaston Ramirez’ clever first-time flick inside dropped between Steven Reid and Gareth McAuley, Lallana strolling into the gap to beat Ben Foster with a low shot, his fifth Premier League goal of the season.
Lallana ran to the stand, raising his jersey to reveal a T-shirt bearing the message ‘Happy Birthday Mum,’ but escaped the usual yellow card for displaying slogans, perhaps because the referee, Howard Webb, failed to spot it.
The key had been the introduction of Ramirez to provide a touch of the unexpected. “The substitution added dynamism and the assist for Lallana was great,” Pochettino said. “His evolution in the last month has been awesome and he’s deserving the minutes [on the pitch] he’s getting.”
Downing took off McAuley, arguably his best defender, in favour of another attacker and was almost rewarded for his bravery. But when Long met Liam Ridgewell’s perfect low cross first-time, he hit the ball straight at Boruc from six yards.
Southampton (4-3-3): K Davis; Clyne, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw; S Davis, Cork (Ramirez, 62), Schneiderlin; Lallana (Ward-Prowse, 83), Lambert, Rodriguez (Do Prado, 90).
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-1-1): Foster; Reid, McAuley (Gera, 80), Olsson, Ridgewell; Amalfitano (Vydra, 86), Morrison, Mulumbu, Brunt; Anelka (Berahino, 76); Long.
Referee: Howard Webb
Man of the match: Lallana (Southampton)
Match rating: 4/10
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