Ten-man Saints dig deep for battling point


A much-changed Southampton side showed admirable spirit with 10 men for more than half of the game to hold Antonio Conte’s rejuvenated Tottenham team to a draw at St Mary’s.

It might have been even better for Saints, who led through James Ward-Prowse’s unerring finish in the 25th minute, but the dismissal of Mohammed Salisu for a second bookable offence was compounded when Harry Kane converted the resulting penalty six minutes before the interval.

Cue a backs-to-the-wall second half, but Saints stood firm to frustrate the in-form visitors, who had to settle for a point in their pursuit of north London rivals Arsenal in fourth.

Ralph Hasenhüttl opted to make wholesale changes to his side, despite the Boxing Day triumph at West Ham.

With Saints back in action just 48 hours after tasting victory in the capital, the boss wanted to freshen things up, particularly in attack, and made six changes in total.

Stuart Armstrong made just his second Premier League start of the season, Shane Long his first and Yan Valery his maiden league appearance of any description, having not even featured as a substitute in the competition before today.

Elsewhere, there were also starts for Adam Armstrong, Romain Perraud and Ibrahima Diallo, with Saints’ entire front four from the trip to West Ham among the substitutes.

Matching up Spurs’ 3-5-2 formation, Saints began with tremendous intensity to their play.

Kyle Walker-Peters, restored to his preferred right flank, produced two early crosses that might have led to his third assist in successive matches.

First he teased one into Long, whose glancing touch was just wide of the far post though the Irishman was subsequently flagged offside, before another delivery dropped just behind Adam Armstrong, who could not get over the ball and sent his header over the bar.

Spurs, firmly on the back foot, produced their first threatening moment when Kane freed Sergio Reguilón on the left, who got in behind Walker-Peters and was tugged back by the right-back, who picked up a yellow card that will see him miss Sunday’s clash with Newcastle.

From the resulting free-kick, Son Heung-Min’s delivery was headed home by Ben Davies, but Saints’ defensive line held their ground and the scorer was one of four players who had drifted offside.

Spurs were beginning to find their feet in the contest by the first-half’s midpoint, but it was Saints who struck first through the brilliance of Ward-Prowse.

When the visitors failed to clear Salisu’s long throw from the left, the ball dropped invitingly for the skipper, who brilliantly cut across the bouncing ball to dispatch an unstoppable half-volley that swerved away from Hugo Lloris’s dive and nestled just inside the far post.

Kane fired in an optimistic response – a low free-kick from 30 yards that bounced awkwardly in front of Fraser Forster, but the goalkeeper’s handling was up to the task.

In Kane and Son, the visitors have a front two who combined for five goals at St Mary’s last season, and again Saints were powerless to prevent the duo bringing their team back on level terms.

Kane’s through ball released Son, who raced away from Salisu, leaving the defender attempting a last-ditch tackle.

When Salisu did not play the ball, Saints’ world collapsed, as the defender was dismissed for a second yellow card and Kane buried the spot-kick with typical aplomb.

The hosts knew they had a long second half ahead, but Kane was in unforgiving mood when released by Harry Winks, taking the high ball in his stride and beating Forster with a clinical finish down to his left.

Saints had not had much luck in terms of the big decisions in the game up to now but this time they were afforded a let-off, as VAR judged the England captain to be fractionally offside and the goal was chalked off.

Undeterred, Kane found his partner in crime soon after, but Valery defended manfully to halt the Korean in his tracks as Spurs turned up the heat.

By the three-quarter mark, the Londoners were still being frustrated by their depleted hosts, but did have the ball in the net for a fourth time when Forster dropped Winks’s cross into his own net under pressure from substitute Matt Doherty.

Thankfully for Saints, like Davies and Kane before, the goal was again ruled out – in this case as expected, with aerial challenges on goalkeepers so often punished.

At the other end, Long’s tireless running from the front lasted 71 minutes, departing to a standing ovation from an appreciative home crowd as Armando Broja took his place.

The Albanian immediately set off on a run down the right to win a corner, affording those behind him some welcome respite as Spurs continued to push for a winner.

Adam Armstrong, operating as a left winger since Salisu’s dismissal, was next to be sacrificed in favour of Nathan Redmond, before Walker-Peters made two crucial headers in his own box, beating Kane to a cross before bravely blocking Davies’s fierce drive that knocked him clean off his feet.

Broja, ever the optimist, still sensed a chance to claim maximum points for his side, only for Davinson Sánchez to throw his body in the way of his shot, before Saints survived five long minutes of stoppage time, as Kane headed into the side-netting from Spurs’ final assault.