Norwich 0-0 Saints: Report
Artur Boruc was an unlikely hero as Southampton played out a goalless draw with the Canaries at Carrow Road.
A game which was not short on excitement, took a dramatic twist deep into three minutes of stoppage time when the hosts were awarded a penalty for a harsh looking decision on Luke Shaw involving Grant Holt.
Holt himself stepped up, but Boruc pushed the effort away to his right and maintain a clean sheet that had rarely looked in trouble throughout the 90 minutes as Saints dominated their opponents in Norfolk.
Up until the spot kick, Mauricio Pochettino’s men were good value for at least a point having controlled much of the play, and creating several chances which on another day, might have been snapped up.
Even though late goals have been a common factor in top-flight meetings between these two teams, Saints will be relieved that history didn’t repeat itself in a sense, though a second draw of the campaign in this fixture may be considered as more than useful at the end of the season.
Norwich: Bunn; R Martin, Bassong, Turner, Garrido; Johnson, Howson, Snodgrass, Pilkington (Hoolahan 35); Kamara (Becchio 79), Holt. Subs (not used): Camp, Whittaker, Fox, E.Bennett, R.Bennett
Saints: Boruc, Yoshida, Fonte, Hooiveld, Shaw, Schneiderlin, Cork, Ramírez (Guly 70), Lallana (Ward-Prowse 78), Rodriguez (Puncheon 90), Lambert. Subs (not used): K. Davis, Clyne, Forren, Chaplow
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Mauricio Pochettino made three changes to the side that started against QPR last time out. Jos Hooiveld, Jay Rodriguez and Luke Shaw all returned to the side, with Hooiveld partnering Jose Fonte in the centre of defence and Maya Yoshida moving across to right back.
Nathaniel Clyne and Jason Puncheon dropped to the bench, whilst Vegard Forren was named amongst the substitutes.
Saints got the match underway, attacking the Norwich & Peterborough stand with Morgan Schneiderlin and Gaston Ramirez taking the first touches on a rain-sodden Carrow Road pitch.
A persistent spell of rain ahead of kick-off continued following the start of the contest, which began at a high tempo as both teams searched for an early goal.
The visitors looked to have made the more composed start, showing endeavour to spread the ball around despite the greasy conditions underfoot. In their opening move forward Ramirez, Schneiderlin and Luke Shaw all combined for the latter to cross towards Jay Rodriguez, who headed wide from close to the penalty spot.
In the eighth minute, the high pressing from Pochettino’s men almost yielded the first shot on target when Yoshida bombed on to try and finish a move on the edge of the box, but his rising strike cleared Mark Bunn’s crossbar without troubling the Canaries ‘keeper.
It remained a fiercely contested encounter as the play stuck in midfield, but on 17 minutes after Grant Holt had been booked for the hosts, Saints almost broke to great effect. A quickly taken free-kick was flicked on by Lambert to Rodriguez who sent the ball across the six yard box towards Lallana, but it was just nicked off the skipper before he could shoot.
A minute later, Lallana followed up with a rising drive that Bunn had to tip over as Pochettino’s side ramped up the pressure on the Canaries.
Moments after, Fonte almost picked out Lallana once more with a drilled cross into the area which just evaded the midfielder, then in the next move, Rodriguez fired over from distance, with the visitors still looking the more likely to strike first.
That statement never looked truer when Lambert fed Ramirez in on goal with a perfectly weighted pass, which the Uruguayan attempted to chip first time over the advancing Bunn, only for the ‘keeper to do just enough to make a block.
On 29 Norwich made their first real attempt on Artur Boruc’s goal which arrived from a set-piece.
In the reverse fixture at St Mary’s, Robert Snodgrass scored from a free-kick of a similar distance, but Boruc was behind this effort to deny City from taking what would have been a fortunate lead.
Saints were soon back on the offensive with Luke Shaw this time making a go of it for himself down the left flank. He collected Schneiderlin’s pass before driving into the area to test Bunn at his near post.
On 35 Norwich were forced into a change as Anthony Pilkington limped off injured, with Wes Hoolahan his replacement in midfield.
The attacking threat continued to be carried by the visitors with Shaw again getting in a position to cross for Lallana, but the skipper’s header inside the area was off target.
A thrilling end to the half saw both teams attack with vigour in an attempt to snaffle a late goal. Norwich were somewhat fortunately awarded a free-kick on the right side of the Saints area for a handball decision against Lallana, but the home side couldn’t take advantage as they threw everything into the box to try and force a strike.
That was almost detrimental to City’s defence, as with everyone forward, the yellow shirts were forced back quickly to deny a break from Pochettino’s side which came to nothing, but served as a reminder that Saints were firmly in the contest and perhaps unfortunate not to have more to show for their efforts at the interval.
Half Time: Norwich 0-0 Saints
A snowy start to the second 45 set a cold backdrop to the new half, but the intensity of the contest remained high as the two teams acclimatised quickly to the conditions.
After a battling opening, Saints created their first opportunity of the half and arguably their best of the game so far when Rodriguez tricked his way down the left side and flashed a cross into the six yard box which was cleared as far as Lallana, but the first time effort from the captain went over.
Chris Hughton’s men looked sharper on the break in contrast to their first half display, and almost capitalised when Snodgrass arrived late into the area, but strayed offside at the vital moment with Saints up against it.
The game opened out even further with Lallana and Rodriguez linking up impressively in the final third at one end, but no sooner had Saints looked to have assumed control of the contest, they were forced back again. On 56 Yoshida made a timely intervention to deny Holt from getting on the end of a Snodgrass cross, with the match now being played at an electric pace and end-to-end.
Just before the hour mark Saints went tantalisingly close to breaking the deadlock when Ramirez played in Rodriguez, whose first time shot was blocked by Bunn, only far as Lambert, but the shot from the frontman cleared the bar.
The hurriedness in possession from both teams led to a spell of loose play, but again Southampton battled on and appeared to have been unfortunate not to have had a spot kick awarded to them when Shaw was brought down on the edge of the area, but appeared to be much further inside the box.
Lambert took the resulting free-kick just off the white line of the box, but his effort came back off the wall,a nd Norwich scrapped the ball clear, under the weight of pressure from the visitors.
In the 70th minute Saints made their first substitution with Guly replacing Ramirez in a bid to unlock the hosts’ defence for the final 20 minutes or so.
The Brazilian’s initial impact led to Rodriguez getting to the byline to cut back an inviting looking cross which all the red shirts in the middle missed, as the visitors turned the screw.
But, Saints were grateful to Yoshida again when Hoolahan played Snodgrass into the area. The midfielder looked odds on to score after rounding Boruc, but the Japanese defender pounced on the ball perfectly to intercept and clear.
The visitors switched Lallana for Ward-Prowse in the 78th minute and immediately Saints went close to scoring when Guly’s strong delivery into the box was headed narrowly wide of the far post by lambert who had got up well to reach the ball.
City switched Kei Kamara for Luciano Becchio in a bid to freshen up their attacking options, but it was Saints who continued to threaten with Fonte the latest to have a go for goal, though his volley skewed wide with 81 on the watch.
A flatter few minutes followed, but on 87 Fonte was booked for a foul on Becchio just past the halfway line as the game roared back into life for the closing stages.
Rodriguez was unfortunate not to do better with a knockdown from Lambert inside the box, before the former Burnley man was replaced by Jason Puncheon for the three minutes of stoppage time.
Dramatically, Norwich were awarded a penalty inside added on time, a decision which incensed the visiting dugout and the red shirts who were quick to make their point about the award of the spot kick.
Holt stepped up, but Boruc sprawled himself across to his right to push the effort away and rightfully earn Saints a draw, the minimum they had deserved for the performance.
Full Time: Norwich 0-0 Saints