SAINTS 1 – BAYERN MUNICH 1
So it was fitting that a last goodbye was stated to both in a match which featured a few of the world’s biggest gamers.
In the end the inaugural Ted Bates Prize was shared between the two sides.
However there’s no doubt a football connoisseur of Ted’s standing would have enjoyed seeing the likes of Roy Makaay and Michael Ballack taking on his cherished Saints in Southampton.
He would also have been thrilled at the substantial number of fans that showed up to support the game.
After 66 years of unbroken service with the club Ted, nicknamed Mr Southampton, knew what it was to be red and white through to the core.
There aren’t many people employed by football clubs nowadays that resemble that.
Ted was one, Benali another.
Last night, with 4 minutes remaining, the Saints legend was provided one final hurrah when he came on to change Darren Kenton.
He slotted in at left-back – the scene of numerous Benali memories over the years.
Whether it was for his dedication, his hardman mindset and even his singular competitive objective, he’s given numerous special minutes to Saints fans.
Like Ted, Benali’s contribution to the club and to the city of Southampton which he is so happy to have actually been born in and now raise his children in will constantly be kept in mind.
How fitting that with many children making their very first check out to St Mary’s last night and providing a glimpse of the future, two legends need to provide a suggestion of where the club has actually come from.
With a match at Manchester United in a few days time, Gordon Strachan secured a few of his first string players.
A number of had niggling injuries and were left out, however that gave a chance for others to stake a claim.
Darren Kenton looked proficient at left-back while Anders Svensson saw a great deal of the ball and played well in midfield.
Neil McCann also contributed greatly to the match while 17-year-old Yoann Folly revealed just why Strachan is so thrilled about his potential.
Betting Michael Ballack and Jens Jeremies in the centre of midfield on his first team launching might have fazed him, you would have thought. But then you ‘d have been incorrect.
The French teen is able to separate play and take care of his defence but can likewise get forward and hardly ever provides the ball away. A genuine skill for the future.
Bayern, heating up for the re-start of the Bundesliga this weekend after a winter season break, were likewise taking the game seriously.
They had virtually the entire first team out – apart from goalkeeper Oliver Kahn and full-back Bizente Lizarazu – attempting to gain back that last bit of match sharpness with the league campaign starting soon and the small matter of a Champions League last 16 two-legger with Real Madrid simply a couple of weeks away.
Bayern still had another number of gears left to go however with Saints having a few players out it made for an even video game.
One thing that couldn’t be missed was the German’s capability to put together slick passing moves.
And with Roy Makaay in advance there was always threat if Saints let their guard down for a minute.
The Dutch Golden Boot winner nearly struck with a response shot in the fifth minute but Antti Niemi was alert and tipped it over.
It was Saints who took the lead on seven minutes courtesy of Brett Ormerod.
McCann crossed from the left to the far post where Jo Tessem mis-hit his side-footed shot. However it crossed objective where Ormerod was razor sharp to steal in and finish the opportunity.
Ormerod had another excellent opening later in the very first half when he found himself free in package 6 lawns out. However he wasn’t quite high adequate to be able to direct his header from McCann’s cross downwards and it zoomed over the bar.
In the second period Bayern applied a bit more pressure and got the equaliser on the hour mark when the excellent Ballack’s 25-yard shot captured everybody unawares and went in the bottom corner.
James Beattie practically won the game for Saints with a 30 backyard piledriver that Michael Rensing turned onto the bar but the match of legends finished with honours even.