Football Features

Anatomy of a Goal: how Che Adams’ super strike saw Southampton stun Man City at St. Mary’s

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 21:35, 5 July 2020 | Updated: 9:54, 30 March 2021

In an exciting evening of football, Southampton shocked Manchester City 1-0 at St. Mary’s.

The match was dominated by Manchester City, of course, with Pep Guardiola’s men battering their hosts and only being denied by a combination of their own poor finishing, some excellent goalkeeping and superb last ditch defending. It was one of those days for City.

But the match didn’t end 0-0, and although there was only one goal it was an absolutely thrilling goal that would have been worth double the price of admission if Southampton had been allowed to sell tickets for the game. The kind of goal that would have figuratively blown the roof off St. Mary’s, the kind of goal that could kick-start its scorers career on the south coast.

It all started innocently enough, with Manchester City bringing the ball out from the back. Ederson receives a pass from Eric Garcia and in turn moves it across to Aymeric Laporte who has pushed up. Danny Ings jogs towards Laporte without ever truly pressing him. Stuart Armstrong is in close proximity and Che Adams is preventing any sort of pass into Fernandinho.

Now whilst Danny Ings has been lethal this season with 18 goals, Che Adams last scored in the league way back in April 2019. It was the only goal for Birmingham City in a 1-0 win against Leeds United in the Championship. Since then he failed to find the back of the net, a run that spans 510 minutes for Birmingham and 748 for Southampton.

So anyway Laporte is surveying his options and decides to pass it to Oleksandr Zinchenko who has underlapped into a midfield position. Zinchenko is facing his team-mate, which isn’t ideal positioning but still has three options for a quick first-time pass; one straight back to Ederson who is very high – about 25 yards from his own goal, another riskier pass down the line to David Silva, or he could have let the ball run under him and play it to Bernardo Silva.

He did none of the above.

So coming into today Che Adams had gone over a year without a competitive league goal. It was, in fact, about 1,258 minutes without scoring. That’s long enough to watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy twice (theatrical release, of course, though you could do the extended cuts if you were willing to lop 90 minutes or so off Return of the King – would probably enhance the experience really).

So Zinchenko receives the pass and rather than do anything sensible he overplays. His first touch stops the ball dead, which is a tremendously bad idea because as soon as Laporte released the pass Stuart Armstrong began pressing. It becomes clear that Ralph Hasenhuttl has perhaps used this lack of a press as a trap and the ball to Zinchenko has sprung it.

Zinchenko compounds his mistake of taking a touch by then trying to move to the side of the onrushing Armstrong instead of turning on the ball and playing it to Ederson, Eric Garcia or just staying still and trying to buy a foul. The Ukrainian’s move is sloppy and predictable and Armstrong sticks a leg out and blocks the ball away into space. Panic goes off in the City defence as Ederson starts charging back towards his line as Che Adams immediately moves towards the loose ball.

So Adams has played two Lord of the Rings trilogies worth of league football without scoring. Now he hasn’t always been a starter, of course (he’s started just 8 games) but part of that is down to his ineffective finishing. How can you trust someone that doesn’t score goals? He has so often looked bereft of confidence so what’s the point?

Back to the present: Adams incredibly approaches the ball with a lot of confidence. His eyes are wide open because thanks to Southampton winning the ball back like they did, Ederson is still racing back towards his line. Now most players here, especially those who haven’t scored in over a year, would take a touch here just to make sure. Or they’d look for a pass. They’d avoid the responsibility.

Che Adams, however, just goes for it. He smacks the ball with a sweet caress. This isn’t a piledriver nor is it an elegant chip, this is an emphatic lob. He swings his foot through the ball like a pendulum on a Grandfather Clock and the thing takes off the pitch. The arc of the ball’s flight is a gentle but mightly dome like Olympus Mons.

As soon as the ball is going up it’s coming back down. Ederson sees the writing on the wall and just gives up the chase, breaking into a resigned job and throwing his head up to the sky. How did he do that? If it was Ings alright he’s a man in white hot form, but Adams? How has he gone an entire year without scoring but then found the confidence and technique to do that?

It was an astounding strike. An absolute miracle effort. Goal of the season? Probably. Not just for the quality, but for the situation. Manchester City coming off devastating the champions Liverpool, Southampton keen to prove themselves with Che Adams desperate to grab a goal. And it all comes together in a beautiful first-time lob from 40 yards out from a guy who hasn’t scored in a year.

Of course no further goals were scored in the game. How could anyone else score and sully the beauty of that goal being the game-winner? City hammered shot after shot at goal but nothing went in, and rightly so, it would have been a blasphemy against football. Che Adams’ goal deserves to stand alone, an absolute miracle of a strike fit to win any game.