Sheffield United 0-1 Southampton: Skipper sees red as Blades are beaten

To begin with, all eyes were on the directors' box where some of the people hoping to buy Sheffield United were enjoying the South Yorkshire hospitality.

Saturday, 14th September 2019, 6:07 pm
The Star's Sheffield United writer James Shield reviews today's game against Southampton
The Star's Sheffield United writer James Shield reviews today's game against Southampton

But two days before a High Court judge decides who owns the football club - Kevin McCabe or his fellow co-owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa'ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud - people's attention quickly focused on the pitch thanks to the positive approach of these two teams.

Quite how it took well over an hour for the deadlock to be broken is a mystery of sorts, although some wasteful finishing on United's part certainly contributed. So with the excellent Moussa Djenepo giving Southampton the win midway through the second-half, the result served as another reminder about the importance of taking chances at Premier League level.

United had earlier thought they had taken the lead through Oli McBurnie, but the Scotland international's 'goal' was ruled out for offside by VAR. Their frustration was compounded when, soon after entering the fray as a substitute, captain Billy Sharp received a straight red card for a foul on Stuart Armstrong. Sharp shook his head in disbelief and unleashed a torrent of expletives as he filed disconsolately off the pitch. He will now miss the next three games, including next weekend's trip to Everton.

Like Wilder, Ralph Hassenhuttl boasts a reputation for being a pioneering tactician and when his selections were unveiled, it was difficult to fathom how the visitors would line up. But a 'rugby league' style routine straight from kick-off, with the ball being lumped upfield and into touch, confirmed the Austrian is not averse to taking the simple approach either.

Parachuting Maya Yoshida and Djenepo into their starting eleven, Southampton saw more of the ball during the opening exchanges. But it was United, also making two changes, who used it better. One of those, John Fleck, was involved in the move which nearly prised Southampton open following some excellent work by Enda Stevens. Che Adams struck the post with a powerful shot from distance with United resonding by sending the other, David McGoldrick, clean through on goal. The centre-forward could have scored. But he didn't, with Angus Gunn scrambling the ball clear. After Fleck twice went close in quick succession, United were threatening to take charge.

But Adams helped Southampton wrestle back toi advantage, drawing an excellent save from Dean Henderson after getting a glancing touch on James Ward-Prowse's centre. The former United striker was a danger throughout the first-half.

Wilder has spoken in favour of the goal review system in recent weeks. But he was left cursing it early in the second when McBurnie's effort was ruled-out for offisde. Bramall Lane had erupted, and the Scotland international wheeled away in celebration, when Lee Mason signalled the strike was being analysed. After an anxious pause, McBurnie's finish was wiped from the record books, with John Egan straying too far forward before flinging himself at Oliver Norwood's set-piece.

Djenepo had caught the eye all afternoon, so in a sense perhaps it was no surprise when he weaved his way through the red and white shirts surrounding Dean Henderson's area before - after wrong-footing Norwood - drilling home past Henderson. Sharp was later dismissed and Southampton negotiated safe passage through six minutes of added time.

Sheffield United: Henderson, Basham (Robinson 83), Egan, O;Connell, Stevens, Baldock, Norwood, Fleck, Lundstram (Mousset 71), McGoldrick, McBurnie (Sharp 65). Not used: Moore, L Freeman, Osborn, Besic.

Southampton: Gunn, Cedric, Yoshida, Verstergaard, Djenepo (Ings 73), Romeu, Hojbjerg, Bednarek, Ward-Prowse, Boufal (Armstrong 84), Adams (Long 90). Not used: McCarthy, Stephens, Bertrand, Valery.

Referee: Lee Mason (Greater Manchester).