Saturday 3 December 2016

Fraser Forster stands firm as Southampton deal blow to Arsenal's title hopes

Published 02/02/2016 | 21:51

Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster, centre, kept Arsenal at bay
Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster, centre, kept Arsenal at bay

An inspired display from Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster earned his side a point at Arsenal as the Gunners lost further ground on their Barclays Premier League title rivals.

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There was talk of this being a revenge mission following Saints' 4-0 win in the reverse fixture on Boxing Day but Forster was superb as a string of top-class saves secured a 0-0 draw and a share of the spoils for the visitors.

The 27-year-old was playing just his fourth game after returning from a serious knee injury that had sidelined him for 10 months and his superb performance here means he is yet to concede since coming back into the Southampton side.

His heroics here, most notably from Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud, mean Arsenal were the only side in the top six not to win and Arsene Wenger's men have now taken just three points from their last four league outings.

Southampton were without recent acquisition Charlie Austin due to a minor injury and they never looked like snatching a victory to secure a famous double.

Ozil collected a superb through-ball from Alexis Sanchez but his shot was kept out by a smart stop from Forster, a sign of things to come.

It was the Germany international who would again come close at the midway point of the first half, this time nipping in behind the defence to poke an Olivier Giroud header goalwards with Forster again making a good save.

Southampton had created chances of their own without truly testing Petr Cech, while a number of misplaced passes and perceived poor refereeing decisions were leaving the Emirates Stadium natives restless at the break.

It was Forster who kept those frustrations bubbling over after the interval, superbly diving to his left to tip Giroud's bending effort behind for a corner.

Sadio Mane could have made things worse as the tricky forward collected a sloppy pass from Hector Bellerin before charging into Cech's box and shooting tamely at the Arsenal stopper.

Forster dived low to keep out a Giroud header moments later as the game started to truly open up with a little over 30 minutes remaining.

Amazingly, the England goalkeeper pulled off two more saves - keeping out substitute Theo Walcott and Sanchez - before Laurent Koscielny headed over from six yards.

When Forster could not get there he could rely on his team-mates to do the job as James Ward-Prowse was on hand to turn Sanchez's low drive off the line.

Another tip over from a Giroud header and a close-range stop from Sanchez continued Forster's outstanding solo display and he and his Saints team-mates saw out the six added minutes to take a point from Arsenal, who drop down to fourth, five points behind leaders Leicester.

TWEET OF THE MATCH

"What a performance from the boys tonight!! @FraserForster on fireee! #WeMarchOn" - Saints striker Jay Rodriguez (@JayRodriguez9) singles out goalkeeper Fraser Forster for special praise.

PLAYER RATINGS

ARSENAL

Petr Cech - 6/10

Gabriel - 5

Laurent Koscielny - 6

Nacho Monreal - 5

Hector Bellerin - 6

Mathieu Flamini - 5

Mesut Ozil - 6

Aaron Ramsey - 5

Al exis Sanchez - 5

Joel Campbell - 6

Olivier Giroud - 6

SUBS

Theo Walcott - 5

Francis Coquelin - 5

SOUTHAMPTON

Fraser Forster - 8

Cedric Soares - 6

Jose Fonte - 7

Virgil van Dijk - 7

Ryan Bertrand - 6

Victor Wanyama - 5

Oriol Romeu - 7

James Ward-Prowse - 7

Sadio Mane - 7

Dusan Tadic - 6

Shane Long - 6

SUBS

Graziano Pelle - 6

Juanmi - 6

Matt Targett - 5

STAR PLAYER

Fraser Forster: The Southampton goalkeeper had a superb second half to the game stopping everything which came his way and keeping his side in the game. Forster's impressive performance reminded everyone why, before his injury, he was a regular call-up to the England squad.

MOMENT OF THE MATCH

Arsenal looked like a changed team with 20 minutes of the second half to go and could easily have gone ahead had it not been for Forster's impressive play. A shot from Sanchez was saved so spectacularly that Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud turned to Forster and applauded the stop.

VIEW FROM THE BENCH

Arsene Wenger was short of attacking options as his chosen strikers failed to find a way past Forster. In an attempt to bring some change and hopefully a goal the Arsenal manager brought on Theo Walcott but he too failed to make a difference and for parts of the game it was easy to forget he was on the pitch.

MOAN OF THE MATCH

Arsenal fans were an unhappy bunch throughout the match and seemed to take most of their annoyance out on referee Lee Mason. The fans were not impressed by some of the decisions made by the man in charge but replays showed Mason had a good match overall getting the majority of the key decisions right.

WHO'S UP NEXT

Bournemouth v Arsenal (Barclays Premier League, February 7)

Southampton v West Ham (Barclays Premier League, February 6)

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