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Southampton edged out Brighton in a close clash on the south coast, with a penalty from Danny Ings, who was returning from an injury at half-time, proving the difference.
The home team was buoyed by the presence of support for the first time since March, and Brighton’s 2,000 fans had something to celebrate when James Ward-Prowse gifted a ridiculous penalty for handball, which was clinically converted by Pascal Gross.
However, the Saints captain made up for his indiscretion with his usual assist on the corner kick, as Jannik Vestergaard used every inch of his mighty body to launch a header that beat Mat Ryan.
Ings had been out since October with injury and Southampton would have been delighted to see him back on the field when he replaced Moussa Djenepo at halftime. They would have been even happier when Kyle Walker-Peters, assisted by VAR, won a penalty and gave Ings the platform to get back in between goals.
He did, because obviously.
Let’s get into some player rankings!
Mat Ryan (GK) – 6/10 – No chance with Vestergaard’s starter and even less so with Ings’ stupid clinical penalty. He did the rest of his job well even though he didn’t have too many stops to make.
Joel Veltman (CB) – 5/10 – Lost Vestergaard to the Southampton draw, but that was perhaps just a symptom of a poorly executed zone mark. The layout was again quite impressive.
Lewis Dunk (CB) – 6/10 – Strong and dominant at the heart of all three, but seemed a bit hesitant at times and unsure of how to handle the double threat of Theo Walcott and Che Adams in the first half.
Adam Webster (CB) – 6/10 -He took the ball quite well from the defense but his positioning deviated at times. It seems you still need to learn the system.
Tariq Lamptey (RWB) – 6/10 – Got the best of an intriguing battle with Moussa Djenepo before the latter’s withdrawal at halftime. He seems to add something to his game with each passing week and is once again impressing here both on defense and in the future.
Ben White (CM) – 5/10 – I’m not sure what is the point of playing with him in midfield. He does not play to his strengths and the game seems to pass him by. It may just be a lack of central midfielders with Adam Lallana, Davy Propper and Alexis Mac Allister out of action.
Yves Bissouma (CM) – 7/10 – The heartbeat of Brighton’s game was the most impressive of the three center-backs, but the task of being everything to everyone seemed too much to ask.
Solly March (LWB) – 6/10 – Used to fill a hole in the back of the wing, but it actually starts to look like a good fit. Put work on the defensive here and you posed a real threat down the road. A couple of reckless moments, however, including a foul on Walker-Peters that gave up the penalty.
Gross Pascal (AM) – 6/10 – The most advanced of the three in Brighton’s midfield kept his nerves when he had to convert from the post, but was otherwise calm. Growing in importance to Brighton after his return.
Danny Welbeck (CF) – 6/10 – He got good and let his presence felt without really impacting things. He nearly murdered Jan Bernarek with his shoulder early in the second half.
Aaron Connolly (CF) – 5/10 – He barely had a kick during the first hour before they took him to Maupay.
Neal Maupay – 6/10
Leandro Trossard – 5/10
Alireeza Jahanbakhsh – 5/10
Alex McCarthy (GK) – 6/10 – I really didn’t have much to do. Sent the wrong way on the penalty, but wouldn’t have come close if there were two of him and they both guessed correctly.
Kyle Walker-Peters (RB) – 6/10 – One of their calmest matches won a penalty thanks to a charged striker. He did his defensive work with a minimum of fuss.
Jannik Vestergaard (CB) – 7/10 – Impressive header to level up. He kept Connolly limited to absolutely nothing as he delivered an imposing defensive performance. Surprisingly impressive in possession too.
Jan Bednarek (CB) – 6/10 – He lost the physical battle to Welbeck at times, but he organized things well and was rarely wrong.
Ryan Bertrand (LB) – 5/10 – Caught napping against Lamptey a few times and quite anonymously in the future.
Stuart Armstrong (RM) – 7/10 – Slowly but surely becoming absolutely critical for Southampton’s pressure play. He sets the pace on the right and has no trouble filling the slightly awkward role between Walker-Peters and one of the forwards who strays.
James Ward-Prowse (CM) – 7/10 – Comical handball for Brighton’s opener, but he made up for it with, you guessed it, an assist from a set piece. The desperation to think about where Southampton would be without their dead balls, but since they never miss a minute of action, that’s a purely hypothetical problem.
Oriol Romeu (CM) – 6/10 – He kept his stride clean, simple and orderly and seems to fit in well with Ward-Prowse in the engine room.
Moussa Djenepo (LM) – 4/10 – Has not been seen anywhere in the first half and did not return after the break with Danny Ings in his place.
Theo Walcott (CF) – 5/10 – Quiet compared to his recent performances, he moved widely to accommodate Ings’ arrival before being replaced by Nathan Redmond for the final 20.
Che Adams (CF) – 6/10 – He showed the ball frequently, but fought for something to happen. Notably better after his partner in crime emerged from the bank.
Danny Ings – 7/10 – Danny Ings scores goals. Simple.
Nathan Redmond – 6/10