Stoke 1-1 Saints: Report
Saints claimed their fourth draw of the campaign with a useful point gained at the Britannia Stadium.
That point extends Southampton’s unbeaten run in the Barclays Premier League to seven matches, and the team will be pleased to see their endeavour rewarded after the game had started with an early shock.
Just 12 seconds were on the watch when Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic became the Potters’ joint-top goal scorer for the season with a goal that stunned the visitors.
A combination of the windy conditions and a driving long clearance down field from Begovic, caught Saints goalkeeper Artur Boruc off-guard, and after the Pole had misjudged the bounce he was then powerless to prevent the ball form sailing over him and into the net as Stoke made a dream start to the contest.
Undeterred by that start, Saints found their rhythm and whilst it took a little longer than hoped, they drew level three minutes before the half-time interval. Jay Rodriguez avenged the Begovic bounce by nodding the ball into the ground and over the goalkeeper, to equalise in front of the travelling supporters.
Rodriguez’s fourth goal of the season in all competitions was only the fifth goal to go against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium in their last seven matches on home soil, and despite a solid second half display from Saints, they couldn’t inflict a further goal against that record.
Mauricio Pochettino named an unchanged starting eleven from the team that beat Fulham 2-0. Steven Davis returned to the matchday 18 after recovering from the knock that kept him out of the last game. He took the place of Guly do Prado, who was absent with a knee injury.
Dani Osvaldo remained sidelined from an injury sustained prior to the Fulham game.
Stoke named ex-Saint Peter Crouch in attack, whilst there was also a place for another former Southampton man, Kenwyne Jones, on the bench.
Saints got the game underway with Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana taking kick-off, and a routine looking start showed little of what was to come as the ball made its way to the home side’s penalty area.
Stoke went in front with just 12 seconds on the watch when a long punt down field from City goalkeeper Asmir BEGOVIC caught the wind and bounced in front of Artur Boruc on the edge of his own area before sailing into the unguarded net for an extraordinary start to the contest.
To their credit, the visitors didn’t take the shock of that early setback to heart as they rallied to try and hit back with some neat moves on the break, but they were frustrated in their initial attempts to rile the Stoke backline.
The cries of ‘shoot’ were heard from the Stoke faithful each time the ball ended up back with Begovic, whose teammates also weren’t shy to then try their luck from all areas of the pitch in the final third, but Boruc stood firm.
The hosts did put a move together - predictably from a set-piece - in the seventh minute when Ryan Shawcross met Marko Anautovic’s corner, but the defender scuffed his effort when well placed to put a shot on target.
Saints grew into the game and carried an aerial threat of their own. Lallana twisted and turned his way through to cross for Rodriguez, who headed wide, and soon after, the visitors were unfortunate not to find the target again when Dejan Lovren headed down a corner from Lallana, which was unfortunate to drop just wide of the right post.
As play reached the 20 minute mark it was still Saints who looked more likely to find the next goal with Victor Wanyama taking matters into his own hands with a pirouette in Stoke’s half before firing a low shot wide of Begovic’s left post.
The visitors defended another City corner with assurance, before a loose clearance from Boruc saw Nathaniel Clyne come to the rescue with a well-timed challenge on Arnautovic, but that wobble aside, Saints remained largely untroubled by the hosts as the midway point of the half was reached.
On 29, a clearance from Boruc up to the halfway line was met by Lambert, who brought the ball down and played a short pass into Rodriguez. However, the strike from the former Burnley man was just too high, as his rising effort cleared the crossbar, and ended up with the Saints supporters behind the goal.
Still, the visitors pressed and they were edging closer towards unlocking the Stoke defence each time they broke forward.
Lambert got the better of Erik Pieters only to mis-place a pass, and then Ward-Prowse whipped a teasing delivery across goal that just escaped the clutches of Lambert and Rodriguez at the far post as Saints ramped up the pressure.
In the 38th minute, Saints were awarded a free-kick in an encouraging position for a trip on Lallana, but the resulting set-piece effort from Lambert showed how big a part the conditions were playing, as his strike gathered pace on its way over the crossbar and into the stands.
And the weight of pressure told on 42 minutes with a delightful move started by Saints in their own half and resulting with a superb cross from Ward-Prowse which held itself in the air long enough to reach the far post where RODRIGUEZ bounced a header back across goal and into the net over Begovic for a deserved leveller.
From then on to the end of the half, Saints were in control, and in truth, that early setback aside, they had been the superior team, but they would need to do it all again in the second 45 to add to their tally.
HALF-TIME: STOKE CITY 1-1 SOUTHAMPTON
There was one change for Stoke at the break with Wilson Palacios replacing Glenn Whelan in the home side’s midfield. Saints meanwhile, were unchanged.
Saints made a comfortable looking start to the half, and caused an early frustration for the hosts when Lallana was bundled to the ground by Jonathan Walters. The Stoke forward was booked for his cynical shove on the skipper as he tried to launch a break into the Potters’ half.
It was the Mark Hughes’ men who had the first chance of the half though when Arnautovic cut inside on the right to deliver a stinging strike towards the top left corner, but Boruc made a powerful stop with his outstretched arms to thwart the Stoke number ten.
Saints soon made chances of their own, however. Shaw ventured forward down the left to cross for Lambert steaming in at the far post, but Huth was there to save the hosts.
Lovren was inches away from connecting to another Ward-Prowse corner, but the best chance arrived on 53 minutes when Morgan Schneiderlin was tripped on the edge of the area.
Ward-Prowse took the free-kick with Lambert also hovering, and the teenager’s strike brushed the top of the net as it brushed over the top right of the crossbar.
At the other end, Walters won the hosts a corner off Lovren which Shawcross headed over from Arnautovic’s delivery on the right.
As the game reached the hour mark, Stoke seemed to run out of ideas moving forward, allowing further space to open for the visitors.
Ward-Prowse curled a strike from distance which Begovic collected with ease, and the same players were involved in the next move where Ward-Prowse linked up with Lallana before striking a low shot into the Stoke keeper’s arms.
Stoke made their second substitution with Oussama Assaidi coming on for Stephen Ireland in the 65th minute. Saints followed up with their first change on 69 when Gaston Ramirez was introduced for Saints goal scorer Rodriguez, with the visitors pushing on for a winner.
A burst forward from Lovren provided the boost Saints needed to regain possession in Stoke’s half after a period of congestion in the middle of the pitch. The Croatian’s run and one-two with Lallana earned the visitors a corner, but the delivery from the left was headed away by Peter Crouch.
Lovren was the first Saint to go into the book after he fouled a Stoke player on the right side of the penalty area, and the defender continued to be at the centre of the action as he got on the end of Ward-Prowse’s latest corner at the other end, only to fire wide at the second attempt.
An inspired couple of neat touches from Ramirez almost drew the substitute through on goal moments later, but he was blocked off by Shawcross, who became the latest Stoke name to go into the referee’s notebook.
Stoke substitute Oussama Assaidi cut inside from the left to get into a dangerous looking position for a shot, but his floating effort towards the back post, travelled harmlessly out of play.
The home side drew another chance as play entered the final ten minutes of action. A long throw from Geoff Cameron found its way to Arnautovic who was waiting on the edge of the area to pull the trigger. The shot had Boruc worried as he scrambled across to block the strike at his left post.
With time ticking away, Saints pushed on in search of a late winner. On 88, Shaw was pushed to ground on the left flank. Ward-Prowse’s free-kick seemed to cause Shawcross problems as he attempted to hook the ball away, but the match official waved play on, prior to three minutes of stoppage time gong up on the board.
Inside those additional minutes, Saints appeared to go closest to finding a winner when Boruc’s long ball was won by Lambert, who cleverly elected to play in Ramirez, but the Uruguayan had just strayed offside as he collected the forward’s pass. His effort was saved well by Begovic, even though it mattered not.
Shortly after that, the whistle was blown for the final time in the contest to confirm a point apiece.
FULL-TIME: STOKE CITY 1-1 SOUTHAMPTON
Stoke City team: Asmir Begovic, Geoff Cameron, Ryan Shawcross (c), Robert Huth, Erik Pieters; Jonathan Walters, Steven Nzonzi, Stephen Ireland (Oussama Assaidi 65), Glenn Whelan (Wilson Palacios 46), Marko Arnautovic; Peter Crouch
Unused substitutes: Thomas Sorensen, Kenwyne Jones, Marc Wilson, Charlie Adam, Matthew Etherington
Southampton team: Artur Boruc, Nathaniel Clyne, Jose Fonte, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw, Morgan Schneiderlin, Victor Wanyama, Adam Lallana (c), James Ward-Prowse, Jay Rodriguez (Gaston Ramirez 69), Rickie Lambert
Unused substitutes: Kelvin Davis, Steven Davis, Jack Cork, Tadanari Lee, Calum Chambers, Jos Hooiveld
Referee: Chris Foy