LONDON – Having completed what some experts described as the perfect away performance to beat Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday, Southampton produced a similarly professional effort to dispose of Championship opposition in the FA Cup, but at the sort of expense their manager, Ronald Koeman, dreaded.
The sight of Victor Wanyama limping off seconds before half-time clutching a hamstring along with news that another key midfielder, Morgan Schneiderlin, had picked up an adductor injury at Old Trafford leaves the Dutchman facing a major problem as his team look to maintain their challenge for a Champions League finish.
It certainly took the edge off his pleasure after Shane Longâ€™s beautifully taken first-half goal put his side through to face Crystal Palace in the next round. â€œLosing Victor is very negative because we already have other injuries,â€ said Koeman. He had decided before the game to play Wanyama for only 45 minutes after the player reported a calf problem after the United game, and now the Kenyan will be out â€œfor a few weeksâ€.
â€œWe have a tough programme and we donâ€™t have a big squad. Our problem is in numbers. We have lost [the defender] Toby [Alderweireld], Morgan, and now Victor. We already miss Maya Yoshida and Emmanuel Mayuka. When we miss seven or eight players, then the squad is very small. One or two injuries more and we have to do something.â€
As before, Koeman blamed a schedule which meant this was the second of three away games in a week. â€œWe havenâ€™t trained in the last few weeks because we play so much. A replay? Come on, please play extra time and penalties [straight away]. Another game, itâ€™s crazy.â€
Having said he wanted to play his strongest side in this competition, Koeman made five changes and switched to a 3-5-2 formation, with the youngsters Harrison Reed and Matt Targett, along with the rather more experienced Long, among those coming in.
Ipswich nearly made the perfect start, Stephen Hunt sliding the ball under Fraser Forster after running on to Kevin Bruâ€™s delicate through ball. Unfortunately the veteran midfielder had strayed marginally offside before doing so but the episode heartened Portman Roadâ€™s biggest crowd for several years.
It did not take Koemanâ€™s side long to spoil the mood. They did so in the best possible way, and if there was a stroke of good fortune involved when they went ahead in the 19th minute, the move that preceded it was of Premier League quality. Nathaniel Clyne, having been found in space on the right by Reed, played the ball into the feet of Dusan Tadic whose step-over allowed James Ward-Prowse room to drive into the Ipswich penalty area.
The midfielderâ€™s touch was slightly heavy, allowing Luke Chambers to slide in, but the defenderâ€™s clearance went straight to Long who turned it first time and on the volley past the wrong-footed Bartosz Bialkowski in the Ipswich goal.
It was a measure of Southamptonâ€™s control of the game that having seen a handful of crosses from the left easily claimed by Forster, Ipswich looked to have run out of ideas.
Wanyamaâ€™s replacement by Steven Davis during the interval made little difference. Tadic, given an early and excellent opportunity to shoot, was far too casual in allowing himself to be closed down, but the visitors continued to dominate possession.
Aware something had to change, Mick McCarthy sent on the highly rated Tyrone Mings for Hunt on the left side of midfield. Demonstrating his versatility, Mings immediately made Ipswichâ€™s best chance with a cross which Darren Ambrose should have used better, Forster making a simple save.
With Southamptonâ€™s three at the back more often than not five, and the line superbly organised by JosÃ© Fonte, it was a very rare chance. Otherwise it was mostly a matter of the visitors playing out time.
â€œWe wanted a rip-roaring Cup tie but they didnâ€™t allow it to happen, they scored early and killed the game,â€ said McCarthy, the Ipswich manager. â€œTheyâ€™re a damn good side.â€ So they are but Koeman admitted Southamptonâ€™s attitude to the Cup may soon have to change.
â€œIf we are still in this position in four or five games, maybe we will say the league is the most important. But we like to win every game, and we take this [competition] very seriously,â€ he said. – The Guardian