Southampton vs Swansea City match report: Ronald Koeman admits Saints handed top-four reality check with loss

Southampton 0 Swansea City 1

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The Independent Football

As weekends go for Southampton’s Champions League aspirations, it does not get much worse than this. Just hours after Arsenal, among their rivals for a top-four place, thrashed Aston Villa, Southampton stalled. And badly.

This was not the Southampton side we had seen so far this season. Credit must go to Swansea, who were stubborn, organised and earned the win thanks to Jonjo Shelvey’s late goal.

But Southampton will know this was a missed opportunity against a depleted visiting side who are destined to finish the season in mid-table.

If Saints have loftier aspirations, then they should not be losing at home to Swansea. Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool are also closing in and you expect third-placed Manchester United to grow stronger. The fear is that Southampton will fade away.

To round off a day to forget for Southampton, Ryan Bertrand’s late red card for a wild lunge on Modou Barrow will see him banned for three matches.

The full-back then had to be ushered down the tunnel after a spat with Garry Monk, the Swansea manager, and that could land him in more trouble with the Football Association.

Ronald Koeman, the Southampton manager, said: “We can expect that teams like Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool will win games. They are big teams with good players. I’m not surprised that they will come back [strongly in the latter stages of the season]. For us it’s difficult to keep our position in the table and we know that.

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Jonjo Shelvey scores the dramatic late goal

“We have to be very good in every game. We saw here that if every individual player is not on his best level, then it’s more difficult. There wasn’t one moment where we thought we could keep this [top-four position] because we know it’s very difficult.

“The position in the table still after this defeat is not normal for Southampton but we will keep going. We came back after defeats in December and I’m sure that with the spirit and the players we have we will do it again.”

Besides a sixth-minute save via Lukasz Fabianski’s outstretched boot from James Ward-Prowse’s low strike, Swansea were rarely tested.

Southampton substitute Saido Mané was frustrated by two successive goalline clearances from Ashley Williams.

But this game looked to have been heading for a draw before Shelvey, who had earlier hit the foot of the post, produced a rare moment of quality to stun St Mary’s.

Shelvey, in a more advanced role due to Gylfi Sigurdsson’s suspension, left Fraser Forster with no chance from 30 yards out.

Bertrand’s red card added to Southampton’s woes and Koeman added: “I’m frustrated of course because I think we didn’t deserve to lose today. In my opinion we played very good in the first 45 minutes and we had some good chances.

“We had total domination and after 45 minutes I was happy about the team, not about not scoring because we had to score at least one time in the first half.

 

“If you don’t score it’s more difficult to keep that domination in the game. In the second half we had less control in the game. Maybe the most lucky team won today. That’s football.”

Koeman might have called Swansea lucky but Monk, who played down his altercation with Bertrand, claimed he saw this result coming as he went on the defensive to help the Welsh side overcome their mid-season wobble.

“It’s been a difficult month for us for various reasons,” he added. “But we talked in the week about getting back to basics. We had a game plan and I thought we executed that game plan very well. We were good for the three points. In the second half we knew that if we used the ball a little better we’d get our chances.

“People can say what they want outside our dressing room. We’ve been in a difficult moment, especially the last two games where we haven’t shown that commitment.

“You can play poorly any time but not showing commitment is disappointing. Today was a very committed display and tactically very clever.”

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