Match Report: Southampton 1-1 Sunderland - Cats Denied At Death

Clive Rose

Sunderland were denied their first win of the season by a late Southampton equaliser. Gareth Barker from the brilliant Wise Men Say podcast takes you through the action from St Mary's.

We'd pretty much all have taken a point today. But when it comes in the manner that it did, it's a pretty tough one to take.

The game this afternoon was a role reversal of last week's encounter with Fulham to an extent, though we did look slightly more threatening than they did. We'd have been delighted with the three points, but we've had to settle for one which makes brings weak attacking performance into the spotlight.

Pre kick off, the bizarre decision to drop Cabral and bring in Craig Gardner was a major shock. I can't say I was particularly pleased with this. In my mind, the only logical explanation for Cabral's omission could be that he went a bit crazy with the hotel ice machine and the gaffer didn't like it. Diakite in for Roberge seemed sensible given the threat of Lambert.

The same problems seemed to rear up again, though. Gardner, largely anonymous in the first half alongside Larsson, generally wasteful in possession, no cutting edge and Sessegnon appearing to have his mind on what he's having for his tea after the game.

To the surprise of many, Sunderland got onto the front foot early and managed to grab an early lead through Giaccherini. Larsson won himself a corner from the first set piece of the game. The first delivery was decent, the second was even better. He found the diminutive Italian international free in the six yard box and he headed into the right corner with ease. Having spoken privately with one of our Southampton podcast contributors, Ben Stansfield, earlier in the week, he suggested that corners may be somewhere where we could take advantage. With no men on the posts, Giaccherini's header was all the more simple.

Larsson nearly punished this deficiency again 15 minutes later. His near post corner was pushed away by Boruc though it could have easily sneaked in had he not been alert.

Between these two events, we weathered the storm. Struggling to settle down after the early boost of taking the lead, the Saints almost immediately capitalised. Lambert combined nicely with Rodriguez and was slipped in through a flat footed defence. He tucked the ball away nicely, only to find he was offside. This one was marginal, but it was probably just about the correct call.

Southampton dominated the possession and began to threaten Westwoods goal. The irshman was called into action after 17 minutes, making a lovely save down to his right from a menacing Lambert header.

The Sunderland defence seemed to struggle to deal with the presence of Lambert and the pace of Rodriguez. Diakite in particular seemed shaky on his first Premier League start.

The Saints best chance of the half fell to Rodriguez. A nice bit of work down the right from Ward-Prowse saw him ghost past O'Shea and Gardener. He teed up Schneiderlin who saw his blocked shot fall to Rodriguez who was again blocked out and his effort from 8 yards ballooned over the cross bar.

Sunderland came into the game as the half went on. Some nice interplay in around Altidore saw him have a couple of sniffs, but the ball just wouldn't settle down for him.

Second half, well, we got battered. Osvaldo came on and probably should have been off late in the game. Ji came on for the absolutely baffling Stephane Sessegnon.

Ji got in early doors, but hit a tame shot straight at the keeper. After that Southampton really took control. Lallana hit an excellent half volley wide from the right part of the area in the 51st minute and that signalled a siege on the Sunderland goal. Lambert and Rodriguez should have done far better with a fair amount of headed opportunities they were provided with. Both squandered their best chances, heading straight at Westwood.

Sunderland's best chance of the second half fell to Altidore. He was put through by Ji but could only stab his shot against the legs of Boruc. It got a bit tight too quickly but he probably could have clipped it if he'd had another half a yard to work in.

We seemed to quell the pressure in the last ten minutes and with time ticking away both Gardner and Osvaldo could have seen red for second bookable offences. However, in the 88th minute a free kick was conceded in a deep central area and our defence was finally breached.

Ward-Prowse guided the ball into the mixer and Jose Fonte made no mistake, planting his header into Westwood's right corner. That was a pretty big kick in the baby makers, but no more than Southampton deserved.

The full time whistle left more questions unanswered than answered. We are absolutely desperate for a central midfielder to come in and start creating threatening opportunities. The moving around of the back four to accommodate midfielders at full back again highlights the issues in those positions. Ji, for all his tidiness and looking better than Sess, was so lightweight it was unreal. He gave the ball away at will and didn't really look much of a threat.

The next week or so is massive now. We must strengthen at full back and in central midfield before the Palace game. Four points from three games come next Saturday would be a decent start on paper. Lose next week and retain those weaknesses in the squad? I think some serious questions will begin to be heard from the terraces.

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