Southampton welcomed the black Cats of Sunderland to St Mary’s today for the opening home game of the new season.
Sunderland under manager Paolo Di Canio fought fire with fire as they also played a high pressing game to help them counter our attacking style.
The game opened with Sunderland with Sunderland on the attack with Adam Lallana giving away a free kick. Sebastian Larsson takes the kick, crossing into the box where Victor Wanyama had to head behind for a Black Cats corner.
From the Larsson corner Emanuele Giaccherini sneaks in unmarked to head home with Boruc unprotected. Sunderland lead and the crowd goes very quiet.
For a few moments the team looks stunned but they soon begin to try pushing Sunderland back as they hunt for an equalizer. The fast passing slick attacking style seemed somewhat flat though and Sunderland seemed to be reasonably capable of repelling our attacks.
Saints probed away with the Black Cats making occasional sorties forward and scored through Rodriguez but the goal was disallowed for offside. Keiren Westwood then did well diving low to keep out a Rickie Lambert header on the line.
Rodriguez then saw an effort from 12 yards deflected wide for a corner, before Saints goalkeeper Artur Boruc had to be alert to keep out an inswinging corner from Larsson.
On 26 minutes, James Ward-Prowse became the first name to go into the referee`s notebook after a late challenge on the halfway line. Saints were further infuriated with some of the refereeing decisions when Lambert was penalised harshly for a foul on Modibo Diakite. General consensus being that it should have been the other way around.
Sunderland`s Craig Gardner was then booked for a bad tackle on Luke Shaw which caused the youngster to need some attention before continuing. Saints were still dominating possession with Sunderland seemingly content to try hitting back on the break.
On 36 minutes Ward-Prowse sent in a great cross with Jose Fonte seemingly pushed to the ground in the Sunderland box with our players screaming for a penalty but to no avail.
Ward-Prowse was causing many problems to the Sunderland back line with some excellent crosses and on 39 minutes from another Ward-Prowse cross Lambert headed just over.
As time ran out Jose Fonte tried a speculative shot from distance which sailed well wide before John O’Shea was again in the thick of the action hauling down Adam Lallana in the box. Again Saints saw their penalty appeals turned down.
The start of the second half saw the introduction of Italian international Dani Osvaldo to Saints fans. He along with Nathaniel Clyne came on as subs, replacing Luke Shaw and Morgan Schneiderlin. Clyne went to left back with Saints switching to a 4-4-2 formation. Ward-Prowse lining up with Wanyama.
Sunderland made one change with Sessegnon making way for Ji Dong-Won. The change nearly brought immediate results as Dong-Won missed a great chance to extend the Sunderland lead when clear and he shot to close to Boruc allowing him to save.
After this escape we saw Osvaldo get involved with a delicate pass forward to Lallana which Sunderland just managed to block. Then we saw Clyne take a quick throw to Lambert whose flick on set up Lallana and his fierce shot was just wide of the goal.
Saints had upped the pace of their movement and were even more dominant than in the first half. Ward-Prowse had a go but to no avail as Saints continued to press. Then Sunderland made their second change of the afternoon with David Vaughan replacing Colback in midfield.
Time and again we saw Saints push forward as we tried desperately to level the scores. New man Osvaldo was doing well in the link up play and it was one of his crosses that Rodriguez nearly managed to put away. The Black Cats stopper Westwood once more in the way.
Then after Artur Boruc did well saving at Jozy Altidores feet, Rickie Lambert saw a ferocious drive saved brilliantly by Westwood. Gaston Ramirez then came on for Adam Lallana with 20 minutes remaining.
Immediately he went on a strong solo run before being brought down for a free kick. Lambert lined it up but fired over much to the disappointment of our fans. Saints kept pushing forward mainly through the middle but to no avail.
After Sunderland made a final substitution with 10 minutes to go it was beginning to look like we would be thwarted in our search for a goal. When it did come it came from an unlikely source.
Two minutes were left on the clock when Ward-Prowse sent a fantastic cross into the box after Osvaldo had been fouled. Jose Fonte met the cross/free kick perfectly to send a powerful header into the Sunderland net past the despairing Westwood.
Suddenly it was all hands on board for Sunderland as Saints now inspired searched hungrily for the winner but time ran out and the game ended up all square.
FT Saints 1 Black Cats 1
Mauricio Pochettino 7 – Team played their hearts out for him and his substitutions all seemed to work.
Paolo Di Canio – 7 – Paolo had his team set up to counter our formation and style of play. Also made a clever substitution.