The opening weekend of the Premier League season has been dominated by goals, but sadly not at St Mary’s. While the net bulged around the country, Southampton failed to score for the sixth home game running as Swansea City escaped with a point despite being distinctly second best.
The build-up to this game had been dominated by events off the pitch. Virgil van Dijk was not in the Southampton side officially due to a “virus”, but just a few days after handing in a transfer request following Liverpool’s illegal approach for his service. Gylfi Sigurdsson also missed out for Swansea with a move to Everton imminent.
Certainly the Welsh side missed the creativity of Sigurdsson more than the Saints missed the defensive resilience of Van Dijk.
But new Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino knows it is at the other end of the pitch which now requires urgent attention following another afternoon of frustration.
Southampton certainly started with a purpose and they should have been ahead inside the opening minutes. First, Ryan Bertrand’s corner was glanced wide by the head of Manolo Gabbiadini and moments later the Saints left back’s burst of pace down the left set up a simple chance for Dusan Tadic who somehow sidefooted wide with the goal gaping. It set the pattern for the rest of the game.
Tammy Abraham for Swansea was the only full debutant for either side and the Chelsea loanee, who spent last season at Bristol City, came close at the other end for a first goal for the South Wales side with a header from Wayne Routledge’s cross.
But this was a match of total Southampton dominance and they did everything apart from find the net. James Ward-Prowse’s shot deflected over from a Nathan Redmond cross while Redmond’s powerful drive just cleared the goal.
Ward-Prowse was then denied by Lukasz Fabianski from a 25-yarder while Maya Yoshida’s shot from defensive partner Jack Stephens flashed just wide.
Swansea could have made Southampton pay for their profligacy at the start of the second half as Abraham’s trickery set up a shooting chance and when his effort was blocked, Leroy Fer curled just wide. That was as good as it got for the visitors in attack though.
Southampton continued to frustrate in front of goal as Redmond’s drive was deflected into the side netting while Gabbiadini curled wide from Tadic’s pass.
Yoshida’s deflected header from Ward-Prowse’s corner was Southampton’s next chance while Steven Davis’ effort from the edge of the area then also ricocheted wide.
Pellegrino sent on Charlie Austin and Sofiane Boufal in a desperate attempt to finally score goal and still they carved out chances with Tadic’s 30-yarder spectacular saved by Fabianksi and seconds later it was Yoshida who missed a gilt-edged opportunity heading wide with the goal at his mercy after Oriol Romeu had nodded on Davis’ cross.
Swansea responded by bringing on defender Kyle Bartley for Abraham, a move that did not go down well with the visiting supporters who showed their displeasure as Paul Clement seemingly settled for a point.
They had to ride their luck just to get that with Tadic missing the target from another excellent position.
Yoshida was proving to be Southampton’s biggest threat too and when his 25-yard free kick curled around the wall in injury time, some long-suffered fans thought it was in before realising it had just missed its target.
Austin then had more supporters on their feet when he drilled a shot against the side netting. It just was not Southampton’s day and their players’ disappointment was evident at the final whistle.