Southampton came within seconds of picking up another vital three points and a clean sheet in their battle against relegation before the last-gasp penalty they conceded in their 1-1 draw against Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday.
The south coast outfit looked on course to pull away from the bottom three following Nathan Redmond’s superb second-half strike, but after Jack Stephens handled in the area Ashley Barnes calmly converted from 12 yards with what was pretty much the last kick of the encounter in Lancashire.
The guilty party for the goal was once again deployed alongside Jannik Vestergaard and Jan Bednarek in a three-man defence against Sean Dyche’s men, and it was the latter that once again caught the eye having been a regular fixture in the starting XI since Ralph Hasenhuttl arrived at St Mary’s at the beginning of December.
The Poland international is clearly benefitting from the number of minutes he is getting on the pitch and appears to be getting better and better every match, and it was no different against the Clarets.
From a defensive point of view, the 22-year-old was certainly faced with plenty of balls over the top and crosses into the box, but he dealt with them admirably and provided another mature performance across the 90 minutes.
His showing was made even better by the fact that he also provided the assist for Redmond’s strike with a fine pass to the attacker from deep, and that wasn’t his only key pass of the game, as per stats-based website WhoScored.
Bendarek also won eight aerial duels and made two interceptions and five clearances, and you would be hard pressed to find a Southampton fan that doesn’t think he is the club’s best centre-back option right now.
If he can start to impact the match in the final third with clever incisive passing as he did against Burnley, then there is no doubt that he can be the team’s key player in their battle against the drop – one which is very much alive as their next opponents Cardiff City’s win over Bournemouth at the weekend means Hasenhuttl’s men are just two points above the drop-zone despite their recent good form.
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