2016/17 Season Review: January

By SFC Media Wed 07 Jun First team

January was the busiest month of the year for Southampton, as they attempted to tackle nine fixtures across three competitions in just 31 days.

This hectic period started with a trip to Goodison Park, during which three late goals from Enner Valencia, Leighton Baines and Romelu Lukaku ensured Saints were well beaten.

Carrow Road in the FA Cup was the venue just five days later. Academy graduate Harry Lewis made his debut in goal and was beaten early on in the second half as Steven Whittaker's spot-kick cancelled out Virgil van Dijk's first-half volley.

Saints fought back, however, and thought they had confirmed their place in the next round when Maya Yoshida thundered in a header on 67 minutes, but Steven Naismith's late header eventually forced a replay at St Mary's.

The midweek tie for the second week in January saw Liverpool come to the south coast in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final.

And Nathan Redmond's first-half goal was enough to earn Claude Puel's side a precious lead at the halfway stage of the tie, ahead of the deciding match, at Anfield, a fortnight later.

Joey Barton's free-kick ten minutes from time ensured that Saints then came home from Turf Moor empty handed the following weekend, before Shane Long's bundled-in late effort saw off Norwich in the FA Cup replay at St Mary's.

Goals from James Ward-Prowse, Jay Rodriguez and Dušan Tadić gave Puel's men an impressive 3-0 victory at home to Leicester on the 22nd before they then travelled to Anfield for the crucial EFL Cup decider.

Virgil van Dijk sustained an unfortunate injury against the Foxes and was ruled out of the tie with Liverpool, so all eyes were on Jack Stephens as he stepped in to fill the Dutch defender's boots.

Despite being just days before his 23rd birthday, Stephens put in a sublime performance alongside defensive partner Yoshida and ensured Saints were able to maintain their lead and keep the Reds at bay.

Substitute Josh Sims then broke from just outside his own penalty area and ran the length of the pitch to tee up Long in the dying seconds, before the Irishman struck in with one touch to book Saints' place at Wembley.

The jubilation in the away end after Long's winner will be the highlight of the season for many, though a youthful Saints side were quickly pulled back down to reality with a bump in the FA Cup the following weekend, as they were beaten 5-0 by Arsenal at St Mary's.

The marathon nine-game month then came to an end with a visit to Wales to face Swansea, where Long struck again but Puel's men were outdone by goals from Alfie Mawson and Gylfi Sigurðsson.

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