Aribo on target in Southampton’s comeback against Leeds United | Dailytrust

Aribo on target in Southampton’s comeback against Leeds United

Joe Aribo celebrates halving the deficit after 72 minutes
Joe Aribo celebrates halving the deficit after 72 minutes

Joe Aribo scored as Southampton produced a rousing comeback from 2-0 down to salvage a point from the first Premier League home match of the new season.

A first half of a few chances saw Armel Bella-Kotchap go closest for Saints, while fellow home debutant Gavin Bazunu made an outstanding save to deny substitute Daniel James, on for the injured Patrick Bamford.

But Rodrigo’s second-half double, including the opening goal within 30 seconds of the restart, had Leeds on their way to six points out of six after victory on the opening day.

Ralph Hasenhüttl’s substitutions ultimately made the difference, as Joe Aribo arrived off the bench to pull a goal back from Adam Armstrong’s low cross before Sékou Mara’s exquisite pass opened the door for Kyle Walker-Peters to rescue a point nine minutes from time.

The manager made four changes to his first starting line-up of the season, including a competitive debut for Bella-Kotchap on the right side of a three-man defence.

The German replaced Yan Valery, while Stuart Armstrong, Mohamed Elyounoussi and Ché Adams were also back in the side at the expense of Oriol Romeu, Aribo and Adam Armstrong, who were all among the substitutes.

With Romain Perraud not fit enough for a place in the 20-man squad, Moussa Djenepo continued in the left wing-back position.

Leeds boss Jesse Marsch was dealt a setback before the half-hour mark when his captain was unable to continue, as Bamford limped off injured.

The first to make an impression after the interval were Leeds, who needed only 30 seconds to edge in front, as Harrison’s low cross was turned in by Rodrigo at the near post.

Armstrong instantly dragged a shot wide in reply, but Saints had been too slow out of the blocks and Leeds took full advantage to double their lead on the hour mark.

In a similar fashion to the chance missed by Kristensen in the first half, another near-post corner was flicked on, as Struijk’s header looped over Bazunu’s dive and Rodrigo poached his second.

Hasenhüttl immediately summoned Adam Armstrong and Aribo from the bench, as Stuart Armstrong and Mohamed Elyounoussi were sacrificed.

Aribo was involved straightaway when picked out by Djenepo’s cross from the left, but his header lacked the necessary power to trouble Meslier.

The substitute then saw another chance blocked as he went to shoot, but it would prove third time lucky for the Nigerian.

The introduction of Mara 20 minutes from time prompted a return to Saints’ traditional 4-2-2-2 formation, with Mara and Adams flanked by Adam Armstrong and Aribo.

And it was the two No 10s who combined when Armstrong found space down the left and delivered a low cross that Aribo took his time to control, before rounding Meslier and burying a low shot through a crowd of bodies to give St Mary’s the lift it had been waiting for.

Suddenly Saints had their identity back, playing with passion and purpose, feeding off the energy of the crowd, and it was a moment of brilliance from Mara that unlocked the visitors to level the scores nine minutes from time.

Dropping off the front, the 20-year-old showed an outstanding vision to spot the run of Walker-Peters and weighted his defence-splitting pass to perfection for the full-back, who accelerated into the penalty area and drove the ball across Meslier and into the far corner.

Mara was not finished there, stinging the palms of his fellow Frenchman from 20 yards with a vicious snapshot, as six added minutes were signalled.

The hat-trick hunting Rodrigo forced one final save from Bazunu with a rasping drive in stoppage time, as St Mary’s rose to acclaim a breathless second half at its conclusion.

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