By Josh James
Our defence of the Emirates FA Cup is over after Gabriel's first-half own goal was enough to give Southampton a fourth-round victory.
We struggled to get going in the opening 45 minutes especially, and though we improved after the break, it was not enough to keep us in the competition.
We paid the price for a slow start. There was a warning for us when Che Adams skipped past Gabriel into the box, and his low shot across goal was kept out by a strong low hand from Bernd Leno.
Gabriel Martinelli had our first sight of goal, when he made a clever run from deep to latch on to Pepe's free-kick, but the Brazilian fluffed his chance when the ball arrived at his feet. It turned out to be costly, when Southampton took the lead midway through the half. Kyle Walker-Peters' low cross-shot looked to be covered by Leno, until a deflection from the sliding Gabriel took it beyond his own keeper.
It was the first goal we had conceded in 2021 - more than 500 minutes of playing time - and it certainly lifted the Saints, who began to get on top, and were pressing with even more enthusiasm.
We started the second-half sluggishly too - until Thomas Partey and Bukayo Saka were summoned from the bench to try to inject some drive to our play.
Eddie Nketiah and Rob Holding both missed chances in quick succession, but at last we were starting to see more of the ball.
Nketiah again drew a low save from Fraser Forster's legs after being set up by Nicolas Pepe. There's no doubt we were increasing the pressure.
But the home defence stood firm. Pepe's late free-kick flashed over the bar, and with it our hopes of retaining the cup disappeared.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Goalkeeper Mat Ryan was signed from Brighton yesterday in time to be registered for this game, but Bernd Leno kept his place after five consecutive clean sheets, and Ryan was on the bench. As well as Leno, Rob Holding, Cedric and Granit Xhaka also retained their place from the league win over Newcastle. Eddie Nketiah led the line up front in the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was missing due to personal reasons.
WHAT IT MEANS
We will not be adding to our record-breaking 14 Emirates FA Cups this season. We must now switch our attentions back to the Premier League, and then the Europa League campaign which resumes next month.
We're back here to St Mary's for the second leg of the double header, this time we face the Saints in the Premier League, on Tuesday evening, with the incentive of moving above them with a win.Welcome to EditPad.org - your online plain text editor
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