Southampton 2-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Goals: Jan Bednarek (£4.4m), Shane Long (£4.6m) | Pedro Neto (£5.0m), Raul Jimenez (£7.5m) x2
- Assists: James Ward-Prowse (£5.8m), Cedric (£4.8m) | Adama Traore (£5.7m) x2, Jonny (£5.4m)
- Bonus: Jimenez x3 Traore x2 Long x1
Wolves came from two down to beat Southampton with some Fantasy trolling of near-epic proportions thrown in for good measure.
The Saints went into the match unbeaten in five league games, whereas the visitors hadn’t won since Gameweek 19, and the first half followed the form obediently enough.
It took Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side just 15 minutes to take the lead, Jan Bednarek (£4.4m) hooking in a James Ward-Prowse (£5.8m) free-kick, and they were two to the good when Shane Long (£4.6m) headed home Cedric‘s (£4.8m) cross.
The only issue for many a Fantasy Premier League (FPL) boss was that neither goal involved Danny Ings (£6.9m).
The Southampton striker had scored ten goals from his previous 11 starts, a run that has added £0.9m to his value and nearly two million managers to his ownership.
More than half a million had signed up ahead of the Wolves match alone, making him Gameweek 23’s most purchased player and FPL’s third-most-popular striker overall.
The only problem with scoring streaks is that they have to come to an end sooner or later, and Ings chose his moment unwisely, although it’s hard to criticise a man kept to just one attempt all match too harshly.
What proved equally galling was Wolves’ second-half comeback.
Coach Nuno Espirito Santo denied giving his players the secador de cabelo treatment (try Portuguese to English in Google) during the interval:
What I tried was to make them believe it was possible and we reacted very well. It was amazing the second-half. We realised the first-half was not good and we reacted very well. I’m very proud of the players.
Whatever was said worked, because they responded in emphatic style.
Pedro Neto (£5.0m) halved the deficit, from an Adama Traore (£5.7m) assist, when he scored his second goal in three Gameweeks on 53 minutes before Raul Jimenez (£7.5m) went on a trolling spree of his own.
The Mexico international had blanked for three straight matches and 228,000 FPL managers had had enough prior to the Southampton clash, making him the Gameweek’s third-most sold player.
A decent chunk of that figure presumably swapped him out for Ings as well, making the last 25 minutes of Saturday’s game an especially excruciating experience.
Jimenez ended his mini-drought with a large dollop of help from VAR.
Wing-back Jonny (£5.4m) was upended in the Saints area, with referee Darren England initially awarding a corner before Stockley Park told him otherwise. Jimenez slotted home the resultant penalty, although Hasenhuttl was not impressed with the decision:
In the end, the decision for the penalty is hard to understand for me, because I think the referee did a good job and I don’t know why he let VAR overrule him.
Slightly less partial observers might have disagreed with him but, either way, just over ten minutes later the coach’s agony – and that of all those Jimenez sellers – was complete.
The ever-dangerous Traore was released on the break by the striker’s pass and he held onto the ball long enough for the Mexican to catch up and finish sweetly.
With maximum bonus points awarded, Jimenez’s 13-point haul was his best return of the season, while swapping from him to Ings cost managers 11, although a good deal of that pain could be offset over the coming weeks.
The Saints have a fine run of matches all the way up to Gameweek 31, with a trip to Liverpool the only major obstacle, whereas Wolves will play the Reds, Manchester United, Leicester City and Spurs over the next five Gameweeks.
Ings’ owners might have to wait for the good times to return, however, as Hasenhuttl has recently talked of resting his star striker:
Like all the players, it’s important for them to be fit because of the high workload. At the moment, he looks in really good shape and can work for 90 minutes or longer which gives me a good feeling. We don’t have to put him in every game and we rested him once against Chelsea.
Rest has been a rarity for Wolves players. Saturday’s match was the club’s 39th of a season that started in late July, and their continued fragility at the back – they’ve not kept a clean sheet since Gameweek 15 – means their attacking assets are the only ones likely to catch Fantasy eyes.
Jimenez now has a bit of form to recommend him, while both Neto and Traore offer excellent value from midfield.
How long they can keep going to the well remains the big question. Their spirit is unquestionable, but their bodies all too human.
Southampton XI (4-4-2): McCarthy; Cedric, Stephens, Bednarek, Bertrand; Armstrong (Djenepo 71′), Ward-Prowse, Hobjerg, Redmond (Boufal 78′); Ings, Long (Adams 71′).
Wolves XI (3-4-3): Patricio; Dendoncker, Coady, Saiss; Doherty, Neves, Moutinho, Jonny; Neto (Kilman 86′), Jimenez, Traore.
Norwich City 1-0 Bournemouth
- Goals: Teemu Pukki (£6.5m)
- Assists: Ondrej Duda (£5.0m)
- Bonus: Pukki x3 Sam Byram (£4.4m) x2 Christoph Zimmermann (£4.4m), Tim Krul (£4.5m) x1
- Red cards: Ben Godfrey (£4.4m) | Steve Cook (£5.0m)
Norwich City’s 1-0 win over Bournemouth was, in Fantasy terms, the equivalent of two bald men fighting over a comb.
With both sides in freefall – Norwich hadn’t won since Gameweek 13, while Bournemouth had just one win and a draw from their last 11 matches – Fantasy pickings were always likely to be on the unhealthy side of slim.
And so it proved, with a first goal since Gameweek 17 for Teemu Pukki (£6.5m) the high point of a typically frantic and error-strewn relegation dogfight.
The 12.8%-owned striker scored from the penalty spot after Steve Cook (£5.0m) produced a fine one-handed save to deny Ondrej Duda‘s (£5.0m) goal-bound effort. Unfortunately, as a centre-half, Cook’s acrobatics earned him nothing more than a red card, leaving Bournemouth to play two-thirds of the match with ten men.
Seeing as the Cherries have been making a total hash of games with the standard quota of 11, their fate seemed sealed, although Ben Godfrey‘s (£4.4m) dismissal for a nasty tackle on Callum Wilson (£7.4m) did at least even up the numbers for the final 14 minutes.
Bournemouth failed to capitalise, with Nathan Ake‘s (£4.8m) header the closest they came to rescuing a desperately-needed point.
That the defender topped the attempts chart for the visitors, with two, spoke volumes for the attacking impotence of Eddie Howe’s team – over the last ten Gameweeks, only Burnley (76) have managed fewer attempts than the Cherries’ 84, while the 61 chances they’ve created is the league’s third-worst total.
Norwich were considerably more threatening on the day, creating a chance every six minutes compared to Bournemouth’s average of one per 16, and they really should have won the match by a goal or two more
Pukki had one excellent chance saved by Aaron Ramsdale (£4.7m), while the impressive debutant Duda and his fellow midfielder Emiliano Buendia (£6.0m) also spurned solid opportunities.
The 0.9%-owned Buendia, in particular, has been a consistent threat all season, way ahead of his team-mates for chances created and third for attempts, just behind the considerably more popular Todd Cantwell (£5.0m and 25.1%).
The latter’s blank was his sixth in his last eight starts, and Norwich’s schedule suggests more of the same over the next six Gameweeks, with the Canaries facing up to a run of Liverpool and Leicester at home and Spurs, Newcastle, Wolves and Sheffield United away.
Small wonder that coach Daniel Farke played down the win post-match:
We’re not over-excited, we know it’s only the first step and it will definitely be a long road to realise this miracle, but it was a good first step and hopefully we can go on.
It will probably take more than a miracle for Norwich players to return to our Fantasy radars anytime soon, however, while Bournemouth’s assets are even further down the pecking order.
Diego Rico (£4.4m) is the only Cherries player interesting many managers, although his return to the starting line-up gave his 12.6% ownership a measly two points and he’s now blanked in five of his last six starts.
And while the side’s short-term schedule is attractive enough – Brighton and Aston Villa at home, followed by trips to Sheffield and Burnley – their form is so ugly, and their confidence so low, that investment in any of their players would be foolish in the extreme.
Norwich City XI (4-2-3-1): Krul; Aarons, Godfrey, Zimmermann, Byram; Tettey, McLean; Buendía (Rupp 90+3′), Duda (Hanley 79′), Cantwell; Pukki (Drmic 85′).
Bournemouth XI (4-3-3): Ramsdale; Smith, Cook, Ake, Rico; Lerma (Solanke 79′), Gosling (Cook 87′), Billing; H. Wilson (Francis 35′), Fraser, C.Wilson.
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