For about 12 minutes Ralph Hasenhuttl really felt the heat and even more so than most at St Mary’s.
In the soaring temperatures, he’d already had to ditch his more familiar sideline attire of shirt, tie, and vest, and swap it out for a much more suitable polo shirt and cap.
And then, with discontent breaking out in the stands to accompany him among some in his dressing room, Southampton fell 2-0 to Leeds at the time that Rodrigo agreed in this second of the afternoon.
Having started with a win in their previous 13 league games, the almost inevitable chants of ‘sacked in the morning’ followed.
Kyle Walker-Peters celebrates getting Southampton level in their 2-2 draw with Leeds
Walker-Peters’ goal eased the pressure on Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl at St Mary’s
But Hasenhuttl then made the first of two changes that brought the game back to Southampton before his third substitute made the game-saving contribution.
Joe Aribo scored 11 minutes after coming off the bench to provide the platform for Southampton’s comeback.
Then fellow substitute and debutant Sekou Mara, with some brilliant skill and a perfect pass, set up unexpected hero Kyle Walker-Peters to make it 2-2.
As Walker-Peters addressed the crowd, Hasenhuttl was on the court celebrating in front of his bench. Glad? Yes. Relieved? No doubt. Do you feel a little more comfortable? Finally.
It wasn’t the win he could have done it with, but certainly a comeback to cling to and a real fight shown in really tough circumstances by his team, especially one that is young, still forming after an influx of summer arrivals and which had collapsed once the game began to slip away from them a week earlier at Tottenham.
Rodrigo scores the opening goal in Leeds’ 2-2 draw with Southampton at St Marys on Saturday
Rodrigo added a double to the goal he scored on the opening day to make 3 goals in 2 games
After injury last season, seeing Patrick Bamford back on the pitch is welcome for Leeds. He played 84 minutes in Leeds’ season-opening win against Watford and had a couple of early scoring flashes from Rodrigo’s crosses.
But his vicious injury curse struck again midway through the half as he collapsed to the ground feeling his right groin, before finally walking away for a lengthy talk in the technical area with Marsch and a place on the bench.
His replacement, Daniel James, almost made a quick impact, being shoved by Jack Harrison before seeing his athletic shot excellently deflected by Gavin Bazunu.
James’s involvement minutes later was less welcome. After Southampton cleared the first corner, James got in the way as the better-placed Rasmus Kristensen looked to head Rodrigo’s move into an empty net. James’s presence forced Kristensen to look away from the ball and his contact was too light, allowing Bazunu to make a save that he shouldn’t have been able to.
In blistering heat, teams stopped twice for water midway through the game’s two halves.
By then there were some rumblings of discontent in the stands as Southampton struggled to create much going forward.
For a moment it looked like they might be playing against ten men when Diego Llorente’s last tackle on Stuart Armstrong was reviewed by VAR, but it was ultimately deemed not to be the denial of a scoring opportunity. This was not a day to be chasing the opposition around a short man.
Southampton’s first chance wasn’t exactly clear cut, a Walker-Peters cross that bounced wide off Armstrong.
His second chance was a bolt from Armel Bella-Kotchap who seemed closer than he was after the young German was shot from behind. Other than that, they had offered little, hence the complaints.
And things got much worse less than 60 seconds into the second half. It started off rocky, with Southampton struggling to clear their lines despite multiple attempts.
New recruit Joe Aribo puts Southampton back in the game to make it 2-1 in the second half
The ball eventually fell to Harrison on the left and his low cross was sent home on the run by Rodrigo, who had broken away from Mohammed Salisu and moved ahead of the unsuspecting Bednarek, just as Bamford had done in the first half.
Just before the hour mark, Rodrigo nodded to the roof of the net from another Harrison cross. Just as worrying for Southampton would have been the growing frustration of the crowd as their defensive sloppiness plus a rare James Ward-Prowse mistake, a misplaced backwards pass, led to the corner being awarded and more boos.
However, that turned out to be only a temporary reprieve, and dissent soon grew even larger. From another corner, this time from, Struijk sent a Brendan Aaronson corner past Bazunu and Rodrigo made sure he got on the goal line.
Hasenuhuttl instantly turned to Adam Armstrong and Aribo, bringing them in with the ineffective Stuart Armstrong and Mohamed Elyounoussi. Very quickly, Aribo, in particular, impacted the game, forcing Meslier to save a header and Struijk to one last challenge.
With your next try. He eventually made it count to set up a frantic ending.
Patrick Bamford was sent off after half an hour with a new injury blow for the Leeds striker
Che Adams sent Adam Armstrong running down the left with a clever touch and his cross eventually ran to Aribo at the back post.
He seemed to have squandered the opportunity as he rounded Illan Meslier, allowing Leeds to put defenders back on the line.
But, with the odds now stacked against him, he managed to fire a shot that snuck into the far corner. Game on.
And the comeback was complete when Walker-Peters latched onto Mara’s pass to slide the equalizer past Meslier.
Leeds had struggled to cope with Southampton and create much after going 2-0 up, although they had a chance to cut the kill when Rodrigo lobbed and stung at Bazunu’s palms.
But, from their comfortable position with nearly 20 minutes to go, they could have finished the game relieved to go home with a point.
MATCH DATA AND CLASSIFICATIONS
SOUTHAMPTON (5-3-2): bazunu 7; Walker-Peters 8, Bednarek 5 (Mara 70, 7), Bella-Kotchap 7, Salisu 6.5, Djenepo 7.5 (Stephens 90); Ward-Prowse 6, Lavia 7.5, S Armstrong 5.5 (Aribo 61, 7.5); Elyounoussi 5 (Armstrong 6, 61), Adams 6.5.
Unused substitutes: McCarthy, Lyanco, Stephens, Romeu, Aribo, Mara, Diallo, Valery.
Scorer: Aribo 72, Walker-Peters 82
Manager: Ralph Hasenhüttl 8
LEEDS (4-2-3-1): lighter 6.5; Kristensen 6, Koch 7, Llorente 7, Struijk 7.5; Rock 7 (Forshaw 88), Adams 7; Aaronson 7, Rodrigo 8, Harrison 7.5 (Klich 84); Bamford 6 (Santiago 28, 5.5 (Sinisterra 84)).
Unused Subs: Klaesson, Forshaw, Summerville, Hjelde, Drameh, Greenwood
Scorer: Rodrigo 46, 60
Reserved: Harrison, Kristensen, Aaronson
Manager: Jesse Marsch 6.5
Referee: Tony Harrington 6