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Shaw and Cole share honours at St Mary's
IT bodes well for Saints and England that Luke Shaw should begin 2014 as the equal of Ashley Cole, at least during the first half at St Mary’s yesterday.
This is a year that could see Shaw become England’s Apprentice to Cole, The Master, when Roy Hodgson selects his left-backs for the World Cup.
Cole won the defensive battle yesterday, but Shaw was the pick of the two as an attacking threat.
The respective formations meant neither had an out-and-out winger to deal with but Calum Chambers did brilliantly to go past Cole on one occasion, crossing well only for Adam Lallana to see his shot blocked.
That was Cole’s only aberration and he was on hand to help block the opportunity anyway, before denying Lallana again and then Jay Rodriguez with imperious positional sense and awareness.
Cole was also outstanding in possession of the ball, using a Lallana-like Cruyff turn to good effect in winning a free-kick and more often than not finding another blue shirt.
His vast experience was evident throughout.
Juan Mata nearly made Shaw pay when the Saints youngster lost possession to Chelsea’s No. 10.
But Shaw was the more adventurous of the two full-backs, only too happy to provide an attacking option.
One pass he pinged over Mata and down the line so nearly created a good opportunity, highlighting his ability to turn defence into attack. And in first half-injury time he showed his turn of pace, sprinting past Ramires with the ball at his feet like an old-fashioned left-winger.
Shaw did not waste the opportunity either, showing an awareness in advance of his tender years in playing the simple ball to Gaston Ramirez.
It was hoped we would see more of the same during the second half as Shaw had shown why he is one of the country’s best left-backs.
He thrived against the team that he supported as a boy, the club now rueing its decision to release him as an eight-year old for being too small!
Which is why it was so disappointing to hear the PA announcer reveal that Shaw would not be taking the field for the second half.
If Shaw has a weakness, it is nothing to do with ability, just inexperience and the fact he appears a little prone to niggles.
A bruised foot, apparently sustained during Sunday’s defeat at Everton, forced him off.
But it is easy to forget he is not 19 until the summer, having been one of the youngest players in his own age-group at the academy.
He has done very well to play as much as he has done.
Cole turned 33 a fortnight ago but was a year older than Shaw is now when he made his Premier League debut back in May 2000.
Which is why it makes sense for Shaw to stay with Saints well beyond the end of this month.
It boggles the mind to imagine what he might achieve in the next 15 years.
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