EFL Cup Final: An epic battle between the Red Devils and the Saints

efl-southampton-mufc-17-finalThis must be the most undeserved win for Manchester United, as they were put to the sword for most of the match by a very determined Southampton team, were saved at nil-nil by an imaginary offside position by the assistant on the far side, then blew away a 2-goal lead to allow the Saints to get back in the game, before Zlatan eventually delivered a killer blow on the 87th minute to gift Mourinho his first silverware with the Red Devils.

United have played four more games than their opponent before coming into this final, and it was evident that some of the players must be suffering from burnout after being lined up consecutively by the manager. Thus, Southampton, being the fresher of the 2 teams, had a better start, and a high tempo one as well, which put the Red Devils under pressure. However, it was Pogba who drew first blood in the match on the 4th minute as he shot straight at Forster from 25 yards out after being teed up by Zlatan. The Saints however gave the Red Devils a big scare at the other end on the 10th minute, Gabbiadini tucked the ball in after Cedric had played a pass in, but somehow the assistant adjudged that the forward was offside, when clearly he was not, and instead Redmond was the culprit, but he was not interfering with play. Being let off by a judgement mistake, United tried to get on the ball, but the Saints were not softies either, as they kept on the pressure making life difficult for the Red Devils. But, the opening goal eventually came from the Red Devils, as following a foul by Romeu on the 19th minute, Zlatan stepped up to take the resulting freekick, and he whipped in a fantastic one over the wall and into the bottom corner. The Saints had not abandoned any hopes thou, and De Gea was called into a brilliant save minutes later as Ward-Prowse tested him with a 25-yard strike which could have crept into the corner had the keeper not produce the save. Redmond then tested De Gea again with a 20-yard shot, which was somehow kept out by De Gea with his legs. Southampton were definitely causing trouble in United’s defense, and Smalling had to be alert to deny them again. Yet, the Red Devils were the ones to find the net again on the 38th minute, as following some good interplay between Mata, Martial and Rojo, the latter popped in a pass to Lingard, who showed some composure to finish coolly into the right-hand corner to double the lead. United were still in danger thou as the Saints continued to press, and they were eventually rewarded in the first half’s added time, as Ward-Prowse was allowed too much space on his side by Rojo, and he delivered a perfect cross in for Gabbiadini to divert in the net to bring the deficit to only one goal at half-time.

While we were all waiting for a revolution by the Red Devils in the second half, the complete opposite happened as 3 minutes in, and Southampton were levelled again courtesy of Gabbiadini. Redmond had a shot punched away by De Gea, but the action was not over, as Davis sent in another delivery, and Gabbiadini volleyed in brilliantly, with De Gea left as a mere spectator on his line. Lingard then got lucky for not being shown a second yellow after clipping Redmond, and the Red Devils were really living on a thread as Romeu hit the post following a corner kick, and the Red Devils were clearly having a hard time to deal with the set-pieces and crosses delivered by the Saints, as each time it seemed that they would now break open again and allow the Saints to go ahead. United however tried to get themselves back in the game, and Lingard wasted a brilliant opportunity on the 76th minute as he fired awfully over the bar when he should have done better. United then survived another big scare on the 85th minute, as Bertrand’s cross flashed in-front of goal, with no-one in Southampton shirt to meet it, which would have been a definite goal if that was the case. But Zlatan decided otherwise for the Red Devils two minutes later, as Herrera picked him with a brilliant cross in the box, and the forward powered a header home to make sure the Red Devils went ahead in the closing minutes, while the curious case of Rooney continued, as he was ready to join the fray before the goal went in, and instead returned to the bench, with Fellaini being sent on instead to help see out the remaining minutes. The Red Devils eventually held on as the Saints took a big blow with the goal conceded, and Mourinho was able to lift his first silverware with the Red Devils, but after going thru much agony following the performance from the Saints throughout the game, and yet again showing the Red Devils are Zlatan-dependent, despite having supposedly world class players in the squad at different positions.