Superb Saints Outclass Owls in Thrilling Championship Opener
Russell Martin’s reign in charge of Southampton got off to a brilliant start, defeating Xisco Munoz’s Sheffield Wednesday 2-1. Goals from Adam Armstrong and Che Adams earned victory in a record setting display from Southampton.
Sheffield Wednesday Starting Eleven
Cameron Dawson started in net for the Owls, after keeping 13 clean sheets in League One last season.
Different from the back 3 which Darren Moore operated last season, Xisco Munoz preferred a back 4, with Paterson at right back and Famewo at left back, either side of Iorfa and Ihiekwe who sat as the centre back pair.
It was a 2 man midfield ahead of the defence, with Will Vaulks and Bakinson sitting in the middle of the park.
Delgado, Bannan and Windass, the hero from the Play off final last season, lined up as the 3 in behind veteran striker Lee Gregory, who has plenty of experience at this level from his days at Millwall and Stoke.
Southampton Starting Eleven
Gavin Bazunu was elected to start in goal over Alex McCarthy, despite some speculation as to who would be the starting goalie for Russell Martin.
Martin also elected for a flat back four, choosing Walker-Peters back in his preferred right back position and new signing Ryan Manning at Left Back with Stephens and Bednarek the cb duo.
Smallbone, Ward-Prowse and Alcaraz lined up as the midfield three, Ward-Prowse rumoured with a move to West Ham whilst Liverpool’s target Romeo Lavia was benched for the Friday Night Opener.
Tella, Adam Armstrong and Edozie lined up as the trio up front, with pace, flair and bags of ability and potential to all be standout players in the Championship this season.
The early stages of the game played out as expected on paper, with Southampton absolutely dominating and outclassing the lacklustre Owls.
The Saints early dominance converted into a lead, in absolutely spectacular fashion.
Tella, who set the Championship alight with Burnley last season, curled an absolute beautiful effort from the outside of the box which clipped the head of Armstrong and whistled past Dawson in goal for the Owls.
At first, the goal was awarded to Tella however Armstrong was later awarded the goal after replays shown he got final contact on the ball. We may already have an assist of the season contender for the new season though…
The dominance continued, with Alcaraz doing superb to open up his body and fire a fierce shot towards goal. The effort ended up whistling just wide of the post.
After this, we then saw the new effects of the recent rule changes within the EFL.
Armstrong was booked after commiting a foul and then running off with the ball. Almost out of jealousy, Gregory joined him seconds after, knocking the ball out of play after a foul.
Despite the stop-start nature of the game, Southampton continued to enjoy the ball.
First from a corner, Jack Stephens fired a shot towards goal. Callum Paterson blocked, preventing the Saints from doubling their advantage.
We were almost spoiled to a JWP delight as Ward Prowse delivered a elegant free kick towards goal. Dawson was vigilant to save the powerful curler.
Six minutes were added on in the First Half, however Southampton saw this out to hold on to a 1-0 lead.
Sheffield Wednesday looked lost and out of their depth in the first half. However credit deserved to be awarded to Russell Martin and Southampton for that superb display.
So superb that in fact it broke the record for the most passes in the first half of a Championship game, with 477.
Mind Blowing stuff.
The Second Half started off fairly quiet. However, Xisco’s team talk impacted play as his side saw more of the ball.
One gift Sheffield Wednesday had last season was set peices, where their physicality and height allowed them to dominate set piece situations
The Owls’ strong aerial threat was used effectively to equalise. Iorfa won a header in the box, cushioning the ball perfectly for Lee Gregory who volleyed the ball into the bottom left corner of the net.
Play started to open up, becoming much more end to end after the goal. The atmosphere did pick up in Hillsborough, creating an electric feeling.
However, the game started to frazzle out a bit. Both sides had possession but lacked any threat throughout the second half.
Both sides made changes, Xisco introducing Musaba and Fletcher who made their debuts for Wednesday.
Southampton meanwhile brought on Stuart Armstrong for Alcaraz and Che Adams for Adam Armstrong.
Russell Martin’s brilliant possession football soon produced a well worked second for the Saints.
James Ward Prowse ghosted his way into the box, completely unmarked, and played a first time pass to Che Adams. The ex Blades striker found the bottom corner sending the travelling 3,000 Saints fans into jubilation.
Echoes of we’re top of the league echoed from the away end. Sheffield Wednesday desperately scrambled and searched for a winner.
Southampton however displayed superb composure to keep hold of the ball for the most of the 9 minutes added on.
After little threat from the Owls, the referee blew for Full Time.
Final Score – Sheffield Wednesday 1-2 Southampton
Southampton were absolutely superb tonight however, against weaker opposition, is that a fair reflection of how good they will be?
As for the Owls, admittedly losing against the Saints isn’t that bad considering the gulf in quality. But the lack of tactical identity made a painful watch at times for Sheffield Wednesday.
Next up for Sheffield Wednesday is a trip to The MKM Stadium where they play Hull.
Southampton meanwhile, will face their first proper test of this season, when they host Norwich at St Mary’s.