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Southampton 2 AFC Bournemouth 0
THERE’S not been a team in football that hasn’t started off the season with a sense of trepidation.
No matter what level you are at, no matter what your aims and ambitions, it’s all the same.
There is a touch of nervousness, of finding your feet, of reminding yourself of how you play as a team, of how you go about winning games.
It applies to any team whether you want enough wins to finish one place above the relegation zone or to win a division or a cup.
The only thing that settles these butterflies, in some cases these nagging doubts, is winning matches – and always in football the first win is the hardest to get.
Saints would have liked to have got that under their belt on the opening day of the season.
Saints are not going to turn down any cup run, that goes without saying, but it’s not their top priority this year and having so much pressure on this game was pretty undesirable with the marginal injury situations a few players have been facing.
However, it’s the way football goes sometimes and when it’s like that you just have to get on with it.
Saints did exactly that against the Cherries and got their win.
They were still a long way from their best, but then they weren’t fielding t h e i r strongest s i d e either.
A t t i m e s y o u could sense t h e apprehension, the pressure, but a bit of that has been lifted.
With a win under their belts and players starting to return to fitness they can focus again on the league and kickstarting the campaign after that opening day loss.
The reason for some of the nerves around St Mary’s was that the first half took a relatively similar pattern to that of the Plymouth game.
Saints came out and were well on top.
Bournemouth were conceding possession and being put under ever increasing amounts of pressure but it was a struggle for Saints to create a chance of genuine gilt edged quality that they could take.
Jason Puncheon drilled in a left footed shot from the edge of the area that Shwan Jalal got down to his left to save while there were a series of crosses and corners.
But then, somewhat like Plymouth, the Cherries started to come into the game.
They began stringing passes together and for large parts started to look more comfortable at the back than Argyle had.
Liam Feeney dragged a left footed shot wide and headed over before Brett Pitman fired in a 25- yard free kick that was brilliantly struck but took a nick off a Saints player and whistled just over.
As the half came towards a close Bournemouth were doing most of the pressing.
It was Saints who were at times too loose in possession and being exactly that gave Pitman the chance to press on and fire across goal but just wide on 38 minutes.
Marc Pugh came even closer just before the break with a cross that drifted high into the area and hit the top of the crossbar and came out.
In between Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain, making his first senior start, had forced Jalal to turn his shot from 25 yards just wide.
Unlike the Plymouth game, Saints came out for the second half looking like they were determined to be the aggressors, the ones who started brightly.
They almost took the lead on 56 minutes when Paul Wotton got his head to a corner only to see Rhoys Wiggins head it off the line.
Just moments later they had an even better opening as Lee Barnard found himself with the ball dropping to him six yards out.
He was under pressure and stretching and could only guide it agonisingly over the bar.
But there was to be a moment of magic from Saints on 64 minutes – and it was one of those absent from the weekend’s starting lineup who produced it.
Puncheon fed the ball into Lallana, he opened up his body and curled a brilliant right-footed shot round the diving keeper and into the far corner from the edge of the area.
There was another sublime piece of skill from Lallana seven minutes later as he bought himself a yard with an outrageous bit of control and fired just wide with the keeper beaten all ends up.
Rickie Lambert made a cameo appearance at the end, using his first touch to set himself on goal and the second for a shot which Jalal had to get his body behind to save.
But the final word was saved for Oxlade-Chamberlain on his first start as he chased in on a loose ball. Jalal, well outside his area, slid for it only for the Saints man to win the challenge and then slide the ball into the empty net to cap off a night that Saints needed.
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