Match Report: Southampton 0-1 Sunderland - An Early Christmas Gift

Tom Dulat

Sunderland went to St Mary's this afternoon looking to kick their Christmas off with style and they did just that as Steven Fletcher's solitary goal was enough to separate the sides.

Within thirty seconds Sunderland could have had an opening goal at a rain-soaked St Mary's this afternoon.

Stephane Sessegnon collected the ball around 25-yards out in not to dissimilar position to where he scored a wondergoal against Fulham a while back and unleashed a ferocious drive towards goal, with Kelvin Davis pulling off one hell of a stop.

After John O'Shea headed over the resulting corner it was a pretty evenly matched contest. Southampton had plenty of the ball going forward with the main dangers of Jason Puncheon and Gaston Ramirez - both of whom had decent strikes at goal well stopped by Simon Mignolet.

Rickie Lambert also tested Mignolet with a low and swerving freekick, and while we didn't really create all too much in the attacking department, out defence was holding firm.

Lambert was once again denied a chance on goal, this time by a superb last-ditch tackle from Cuellar, while at the other end Steven Fletcher was fouled and Craig Gardner leathered one into the wall.

It was all in all, a dull half to this point. Perhaps the most interesting aspect was Adam Johnson being moved in to the middle of the pitch and Sessegnon dropping wide. Certainly this was a factor in our opening goal just before half time.

Sessegnon won the ball in the Southampton half, releasing Johnson down the left hand side. Johnson skipped to the byline and returned the favour to Sessegnon who's mishit shot fell straight into the path of Fletcher to turn in from around 12-yards. A proper strikers finish.

The second half started strongly for Sunderland with Johnson and Sessegnon taking shots at goal of varying quality. In general though we were looking very comfortable, especially defensively where Southampton failed to really test us in the opening exchanges barring a speculative effort from Lambert.

After a lively start the second half things became somewhat of a washout - appropriate given the torrential rain which never let up all afternoon.

Jose Fonte should have buried a free header but in stead Colback managed to clear it under little pressure. Jason Puncheon wriggled his way past Carlos Cuellar but was met with a wall-like stop from John O'Shea once he found himself in the area.

In return we offered pressure but little penetration. About as close as we really mustered was a Craig Gardner freekick from distance which nearly squirmed through Kelvin Davis and into the back of the net.

A late surge from the hosts came as four minutes of stoppage time were added on but yet more tremendous defending managed to deny Ramirez and substitute Guly Do Prado.

Overall things were pretty dull. Southampton proved to be pushovers and couldn't get any significant pressure on our defenders, and anything they did muster we were more than equal to.

Credit has to go to us too though as it wasn't all about Southampton's inferiority. We defended solidly and took our chances to grab three very valuable points, with the clean sheet a bonus.

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