Goalkeepers were the heroes on Sunday as Southampton and Burnley battled their way to a goalless draw at St Mary’s Stadium to kick off their respective Premier League campaigns.
Visitors Burnley thought they’d had the perfect start after Jack Cork found the net inside three minutes, only to be denied by the linesman’s raised flag. Goalkeepers Alex McCarthy and Joe Hart were called upon time and time again throughout the match as they fought resiliently to keep their clean sheets.
Burnley defender Ben Mee also saw a heart-in-mouth moment when he headed the ball directly at his own goal, only to be rescued by an off-the-line clearance by Ashley Westwood.
Check out our breakdown of the game below.
Key Talking Point
Southampton’s strongest element was undoubtedly their height and aerial prowess during the game. Burnley aren’t exactly a small or slight team, yet they found themselves pushed around by the Saints.
Towering centre back Jannik Vestergaard was the strongest example of it, throwing his head on everything that came near him – both in his own and the opposition’s boxes. He was a threat from corners, whilst also consistently neutralising any danger from Burnley’s Chris Wood.
Once Mohamed Elyounoussi was introduced in place of Cedric Soares, the aerial dominance of the team only got more significant. With consistently good deliveries from corners, it looked certain to be the Saints’ best route to goal – but it wasn’t meant to be.
Starting XI: McCarthy (9), Stephens (6), Vestergaard (8), Hoedt (7), Cedric (4), Romeu (6), Lemina (8), Bertrand (7), Armstrong (7), Redmond (7), Austin (6)
Substitutes: Ings (7), Elyounoussi (7), Gabbiadini (6)
STAR MAN – After such a sluggish opening fifteen minutes, the Saints were lucky not to find themselves punished. The main reason for that was the performance of goalkeeper McCarthy.
The 28-year-old was thrown straight into the spotlight with a one-on-one with Lennon, but it was the Guildford-born man who came out on top with a brilliant save. He wasn’t content to stop there, either, and continued to be an impenetrable wall in the Saints net – he certainly earned his clean sheet in the match.
WORST PLAYER – Cedric Soares didn’t appear to touch the ball for the vast majority of the game, and picks up the award for Southampton’s poorest performer on the night. It also didn’t help that he struggled with his delivery from corners, only highlighted further by his replacement Elyounoussi’s consistently good attempts.
Key Talking Point
Burnley’s attacking build-up play was brilliant. Jeff Hendrick and Johann Berg Gudmundsson caused endless problems for the Saints in the pockets of space out wide and in front of the Southampton back line.
The problem came in the final ball. Striker Chris Wood was entirely shutdown by the Saints defence, particularly Vestergaard, while McCarthy answered anything that did manage to get in behind. Truthfully, Burnley should have been comfortable ahead early on, given the lax start to the game that Southampton had.
Dyche could be heard screaming from the touchline throughout, urging his players to make something of their chances, but the opportunities kept passing them by. It’s a concern with Burnley having failed to score in their last Europa League outing too.
Starting XI: Hart (8), Lowton (6), Tarkowski (6), Mee (6), Ward (6), Gudmundsson (6), Westwood (6), Cork (6), Lennon (6), Hendrick (6), Wood (4).
Substitutes: Vokes (6), Barnes (6), Taylor (N/A)
STAR MAN – Just as McCarthy was the hero for Southampton, Hart was Burnley’s star after Southampton found a late vain of form and mounted their assault on the Clarets’ goal.
The former Manchester City goalkeeper found himself called into action to deny a number of good chances from Saints’ attacking players, particularly the impressive Danny Ings and Mario Lemina. However, Hart looked assured and successfully claimed his second clean sheet in his first two games for Burnley.
Joe Hart getting his first clean sheet of the season today, really hope he finds his form again with Burnley!
— James Baker (@James_BakerCTID) August 12, 2018
WORST PLAYER – Chris Wood was ineffectual at best for Burnley up front, as Southampton’s defence marshalled the New Zealander comfortably. The 26-year-old striker tried to create space and opportunities for himself, but nothing would fall for him and he eventually saw himself hooked in favour of Sam Vokes.
After opening their points tally for the season, the Saints will be hoping to dispel the slow start they had against Burnley in their next match. Southampton face an away trip to Goodison Park to face Everton next.
Burnley, meanwhile, invite Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir to Turf Moor on Thursday in the second leg of their Europa League clash with the scores goalless on aggregate, before facing a home fixture with Watford as their next Premier League match.