Sheffield United: What defeat to Southampton taught The Blades

There was a red card which split opinion and yet more controversy involving VAR.

Sunday, 15th September 2019, 8:05 pm
George Baldock battles against Southampton: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

But ultimately, as defender George Baldock acknowledged afterwards, missed chances ultimately decided the outcome of this meeting between Sheffield United and Southampton.

Chris Wilder's side created plenty but failed to make them count. The visitors engineered fewer but, before Billy Sharp was dismissed for a tackle on Stuart Armstrong, made sure they converted one. Another day and another lesson, Baldock conceded, about the fine margins between success and failure in Premier League competition.

"We had a lot of opportunities," the United wing-back said. "Probably the biggest amount we have created in any game. If the result was different, people might look at the performance a bit differently. But I would like to think it was a pretty decent performance and we will take that into next weekend."

Sign up to our Sheffield United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

While Southampton celebrate Moussa Djenepo's moment of brilliance which settled a tightly contested game, United head to Everton hoping to bounce back from a result which, given the circumstances, was particularly painful. Sharp will miss the trip to Goodison Park after being sent-off during the closing stages of the game. But earlier, after seeing an Oli McBurnie effort wiped from the scoresheet by officials at Stockley Park, Wilder felt they had been denied a clear cut penalty when James Ward-Prowse appeared to handle in the box. Despite conceding John Egan had strayed too far forward before the ball was deposited in the net, United's manager could not fathom why the Southampton player's indiscretion had not been reviewed.

"I knew it was a tight decision," Baldock said. "I did not particularly celebrate because I knew it was going to VAR.

"I was keeping my fingers crossed that the goal was going to be allowed, but it was not to be. But the handball from where I was looking looked like handball. But with the rules nowadays, you don't know if it was deliberate or prevented a goal - whatever it was. It was not meant to be."

Djenepo's strike, which saw him beat Oliver Norwood before weaving through United's defence, was superb. But had United made the most of the openings they enjoyed, it would have been rendered a footnote rather than the defining moment of the fixture. Dean Henderson made a fine save to deny Che Adams after the former United striker had hit a post. But David McGoldrick had earlier spurned a good chance to score before passing-up two more following the Mali international's finish. The otherwise excellent John Fleck was also guilty of failing to beat Angus Gunn when the opportunity arose. Then, after being summoned from the bench, Sharp was dismissed for a late challenge on fellow substitute Armstrong. Wilder thought his captain deserved to walk but others felt differently.

"It was on the far side and I didn't see it," Baldock said. "I know he is not that kind of lad to put in a disgusting tackle. I don't even know what he was sent off for."

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, Hojberg, Bednarek, Ward-Prowse, Boufal (Armstrong 84), Adams (Long 90). Not used: McCarthy, Stephens, Bertrand, Valery.

Referee: Lee Mason (Greater Manchester).