EFL

Tuchel hails Saul's performance against Southampton as a 'huge step in the right direction'

By Sports Desk October 26, 2021

Thomas Tuchel was delighted with the all-round display of Saul Niguez as the Chelsea midfielder impressed in Tuesday's EFL Cup tie with Southampton.

Chelsea required a penalty shoot-out for the second round running in the competition, as Reece James' cool spot-kick ultimately sealed the Blues' progression to the last eight.

James' penalty sealed a 4-3 shoot-out win after Theo Walcott and Will Smallbone failed to convert their efforts following a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.

The five-time champions have now won all three of their matches against Southampton in the competition. The last such meeting was back in 1997-98, with Chelsea going on to lift the trophy that season.

Saul had played only once – against Malmo in the Champions League last week – since featuring against Aston Villa in the previous round, yet the Atletico Madrid loanee, who was taken off at half-time in his sole Premier League appearance, completed the full game.

He went close to opening the scoring with an excellent header six minutes in, forcing Fraser Forster into a top-class save.

Having seen another header saved just before the hour, Saul then had two attempts from the edge of the area in quick succession, with a crisp strike flashing just wide before Forster again denied the Spain international, diving to his right to keep out a shot that was dipping in.

 

Saul finished on four efforts in total, with a joint game-high three on target, and along with midfield partner Mateo Kovacic, the 26-year-old went in for a game-leading six tackles, completing three, though he did concede four fouls.

It was a performance that left Tuchel highly impressed.

"[He had] a good match, a huge step in the right direction for him," Tuchel told reporters.

"I am happy. We thought maybe he would be struggling with the intensity at the 70th minute but he got better and better, had chances and shots.

"We thought let's keep him and give him the minutes. It was a good step for him."

Tuchel explained that Chelsea's options were limited after three players who could have started – Cesar Azpilicueta, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Andreas Christensen – were unable to train ahead of the match.

"Azpi injured his shoulder, let's see," Tuchel said. "We hope he will be fit, he is a tough guy. Maybe he will be fit Saturday [for the game against Newcastle United]. Ruben has a pain in his hip, in his joint. Andreas had tooth surgery and should be fine to train on Thursday."

Chelsea had 23 shots in total, with 14 on target – Forster pulling off 13 saves in total and only beaten by Kai Havertz's header. Southampton, who equalised through Che Adams, had plenty of chances themselves, however, with Kepa Arrizabalaga making six stops.

"It was an intense match of football, nice to watch for the spectators," Tuchel added. "It was an open fight, an intense match. We did a good shootout, a lot of quality. I liked the energy today, it was a good game."

Related items

  • Melbourne City 1-0 Perth Glory: Late Atkinson header wins it for champions Melbourne City 1-0 Perth Glory: Late Atkinson header wins it for champions

    Nathaniel Atkinson's late strike gave Melbourne City a 1-0 victory over Perth Glory at AAMI Park on Wednesday.

    Defending champions City, smarting from a first defeat of the A-League season at the hands of Western United, dominated the game but Glory goalkeeper Cameron Cook denied them time and again.

    Atkinson finally broke the deadlock in the 88th minute, nodding home from close range after Connor Metcalfe timed his run to perfection and headed into the substitute's path.

    Melbourne had 23 attempts and thought they had opened the scoring in the first half, but Andrew Nabbout's deflected strike was ruled out for offside.

    While Melbourne will point to their domination of the game, Atkinson's winner was a cruel blow for Cook, who made six saves.

    Victory for Patrick Kisnorbo's side moved them up to second place, with Perth sitting into sixth spot after four matches.

  • 'He's just been in attack mode' – Davis lauds in-form Lakers star Westbrook 'He's just been in attack mode' – Davis lauds in-form Lakers star Westbrook

    Anthony Davis says Russell Westbrook's aggression has been key to his return to form for the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Westbrook, a Los Angeles native, signed for his hometown team ahead of the 2021-22 season, having spent last campaign with the Washington Wizards.

    The nine-time All-Star struggled at the start of his Lakers career, but is averaging 23.5 points, 8.9 assists and 6.9 rebounds across the past eight games.

    He turned in a star performance on Tuesday as the Lakers claimed a convincing 117-102 victory over rivals the Boston Celtics.

    Westbrook accumulated 24 points and provided 11 assists, and only Davis (24.1) and LeBron James (25.9) are averaging more points per game this season for the Lakers than the 33-year-old (20.4).

    "I think at the beginning of the year, Russ was a little bit passive," Davis said, as reported by ESPN.

    "He was trying to get guys involved, pass the ball. We told him, 'The more you're aggressive, the more it will open up for everyone else.'

    "The last seven to 10 games, he's been very, very aggressive, and when he does that, it opens up the floor for everyone else as far as shooting.

    "He's just been in attack mode. That's why we brought him here, to be Russell Westbrook and not anybody else but that."

    Westbrook is well aware of the storied rivalry with the Celtics, given his Los Angeles upbringing.

    "As a player like myself, you want to make sure you approach all games the same while also understanding the significance of this particular game," Westbrook said.

    "That makes it a good win for us."

    The Lakers are sixth in the Western Conference with a 13-12 record, while the Celtics (also 13-12) sit 10th in the East.

    "We're disappointed as far as we were outhustled, out-toughed a little bit," Boston coach Ime Udoka said.

    "It hasn't happened in a long time. They would put their head down, get to the basket and get whatever they wanted. We're better than that defensively, but a lack of effort and a lack of toughness showed tonight."

  • Ashes 2021-22: 'It's all gone to plan so far' – Australia captain Cummins reflects on 'pretty crazy' opening day Ashes 2021-22: 'It's all gone to plan so far' – Australia captain Cummins reflects on 'pretty crazy' opening day

    Pat Cummins reflected on a "pretty crazy" first day as Australia's Test captain after his side dismantled England at the Gabba to start the Ashes in style.

    Mitchell Starc bowled Rory Burns with the very first ball in Brisbane on Wednesday and the hosts went on to skittle England out for just 147 before rain and bad light stopped play.

    Cummins, who replaced Tim Paine as captain following the wicketkeeper's resignation last month in the wake of a lewd texting scandal, led the way for Australia, taking 5-38.

    The 28-year-old became the second pace bowler to take five wickets in a men's Test innings as captain of Australia, after George Giffen (three occasions in December 1894, February 1895 and January 1895), and has taken 133 wickets in the longest format since the start of 2018, more than any other player.

    England skipper Joe Root won the toss and chose to bat on a green pitch in Queensland, and though Cummins acknowledged he would likely have made the same decision, he had no regrets over losing the coin flip as he looked back on a wonderful day for Australia.

    "Pretty crazy... it's all gone to plan so far," Cummins told BT Sport.

    "Really proud of all the guys. I was probably going to have a bat. I genuinely wasn't upset and we made the most of it.

    "[The pitch] is a little bit soft. You're always in the game on the morning of day one. It got a little bit quicker after lunch but the ball got a little bit softer. It's a pretty standard Gabba wicket."

    Asked to comment on his five-for, Cummins added: "The body felt decent. I've bowled better before and haven't got as many rewards. I kept it tight and got the ball up there."

    Starc's 2-35 and Josh Hazlewood's 2-42 were added to by a first Test wicket for Cameron Green (1-6) as England were cast aside with ease - only four of the tourists' side making it into double figures.

    The selection of opening bowler Starc had come under some scrutiny, but he responded in perfect fashion when his first delivery crashed into Burns' leg stump.

    It is only the second time in Ashes history that a batsman has been dismissed with the first ball of the first Test.

    "Really happy for him, he really held the attack together," Cummins said of Starc.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.