Saints 1-1 Stoke: Report
Southampton ended the campaign with a credible draw against the Potters which saw the hosts finish 14th in their first season back in the Barclays Premier League.
There may not have been the sort of drama associated with final games down the years riding on this contest, but the match was played out in competitive fashion with the hosts serving up an entertaining game to finish the season in front of the home supporters.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men will count themselves unfortunate not to have taken all three points from the match having outplayed their opponents for long periods, so much so, that it was a disappointment when former Saints man Peter Crouch popped up within two minutes of the second 45 to head Geoff Cameron’s cross home past Kelvin Davis.
In the end, they only had to wait ten minutes to deservedly restore parity, when Rickie Lambert, who had earlier had a goal ruled out for offside, was finally allowed to celebrate his 15th goal of a successful debut to-flight campaign by knocking in a rebound from Steven Davis’s shot.
Despite the late cameo of retiring frontman Michael Owen, Saints looked the more likely to score from then on, and only the form of Asmir Begovic denied the likes of Rodriguez and Puncheon, whilst substitute Emmanuel Mayuka was desperately unlucky not to win it at the end with a low shot which hit the side-netting.
A final position of 14th was confirmed soon after the whistle, seeing Saints finish above the likes of Newcastle, Sunderland and Villa with 41 points to their name.
Saints: K. Davis, Clyne, Fonte, Hooiveld, Shaw, Schneiderlin, Cork (Mayuka 82), S. Davis (Ward-Prowse 75), Rodriguez, Lallana (Puncheon 64), Lambert. Subs (not used): Gazzaniga, Yoshida, Chambers, Isgrove.
Stoke: Begovic, Shotton, Shawcross, Huth, Wilson (Wilkinson 20), Walters (Owen 75), Nzonzi, Whitehead, Cameron, Etherington (Jerome 69), Crouch. Subs (not used): Sorensen, Palacios, Cuvelier, Kightly.
Referee: Lee Probert
Attendance: 31,539 (including 2,767 away)
There was just one change from the team that drew at Sunderland as Artur Boruc was rested for the final game of the season, with Kelvin Davis taking his place between the posts.
Saints Academy duo Calum Chambers and Lloyd Isgrove were both called into a Barclays Premier League squad for the first time, taking up places on the bench, alongside last week’s scorer Jason Puncheon.
Visitors Stoke got the match underway, lining up in their changed strip of black and luminous green on a clear and mild afternoon inside St Mary’s.
It was the home side who were quickest out of the blocks though. After winning possession from kick-off, there were just 30 seconds on the watch when Saints had the ball in the back of the net when Rickie Lambert turned home a rebound from Adam Lallana’s shot onto the post. However, the effort was correctly ruled out for an offside flag against Saints’ top scorer who had crept into the six yard box.
The hosts were unrelenting with their attacking play inside the opening exchanges, playing some easy-on-the-eye football which led to a foul on Jay Rodriguez that saw Stoke man Dean Whitehead booked for his cynical tap on the frontman as he burst towards the box.
Stoke responded with a Marc Wilson free-kick which the defender skied over the top of Kelvin Davis’s goal, leaving the ‘keeper untroubled.
Saints soon reaffirmed control of the game, and, in the tenth minute, Lambert took aim for goal again after escaping the clutches of Robert Huth, but his skewed shot from the corner of the area squirmed wide of Begovic’s right post.
On 13 Lambert headed over from a Nathaniel Clyne cross to the far post as the hosts continued to create the best of the chances.
Five minutes later, they really should have made more of a Steven Davis break forward which emanated from a brilliant interception by Morgan Schneiderlin. The break resulted in Rodriguez winning a corner, though Luke Shaw’s fine run through the centre deserved to be picked out.
Stoke were forced into their first substitution of the game on 20 minutes when Wilson was taken off in favour of Andy Wilkinson, with Tony Pulis’s men fighting to get a grip on the game.
The visitors tried to claim a penalty when Walters went to ground, but the shouts were unconvincing as Stoke tried in vain to muster an attempt on goal.
Steven N’Zonzi was the next City player to go into Lee Probert’s notebook after the midfielder scythed down Schneiderlin, with Peter Crouch having to drop deeper to help out his side’s struggling midfield.
Stoke eventually settled into the contest as the game approached the half hour, creating a half chance which saw Matthew Etherington skew a volley form the edge of the area over the bar on 34 minutes.
Pulis’s side remained largely ineffectual though, with Saints hounding their opponents across the pitch. That pressing almost saw Lallana capitalise on a slip by Huth just outside of the area, but the defender recovered in the nick of time.
As the half came towards its conclusion, Walters got a shot on target which Davis held comfortably low at his near post. Saints ended the opening 45 with Lallana winning a corner off Huth, but the set piece came to nothing as the two sides cancelled each other out going in at the break.
Half Time: Saints 0-0 Stoke
After a low-key start to the new half, Stoke opened the scoring within two minutes of the restart. Geoff Cameron’s run down the right flank led to a pinpoint cross for Peter CROUCH, whose precise header found the left corner of the net past Kelvin Davis’s outstretched arm.
Steven Davis was unfortunate not to level up three minutes later though, when the Northern Irishman received Clyne’s cutback from the right hand side, but Begovic spread himself well to block the midfielder’s effort.
Saints ramped up the pressure in search of a reply, and another fine piece of link-up play from the hosts almost deservedly drew an equaliser on 53. Rodriguez and Lambert combined on the edge of the area where the former forced a save from the feet of Begovic, though the ’keeper appeared to know little about the stop as he dived towards the opposite corner.
And, the leveller belatedly arrived on 57 minutes following another shot from Steven Davis which Begovic again somehow managed to keep out. However, the rebound came to Rickie LAMBERT who tapped home inside the six yard box for his 15th goal of the season.
Two minutes later, Huth saw a header from a corner bounce up towards the top corner of Kelvin Davis’s goal, but the ‘keeper got across to the effort as the match remained level.
Saints made their first change in the 64th minute when Lallana was replaced by Jason Puncheon, to add some fresh legs to the hosts’ attacking options.
And, a minute later, Jose Fonte’s hooked pass forward caused confusion in the Stoke backline as Wilkinson attempted to volley clear under pressure from Puncheon. The ball spun up over Begovic, but Shawcross spared the visitors’ blushes by putting it out for a corner instead.
Stoke made their second switch on 69 minutes, with Cameron Jerome replacing Etherington, but it was Saints who continued in the ascendancy, playing their way around the visitors, as City struggled to keep up with Pochettino’s men.
The game was further broken up by a further substitution apiece. Steven Davis was replaced by James Ward-Prowse, whilst there was an emotional last ever welcome onto the pitch for Stoke’s Michael Owen, who came on in place of Walters for the final 15 minutes.
Once the action resumed, Saints went back in search of a second strike and Rodriguez went close when he got on the end of a threaded pass from Cork inside the area, but his effort was easy for Begovic to hold.
With the pace of the game having slowed up considerably, Shaw went in search of a first ever professional goal, but he couldn’t get a clean connection on a shot which flew wide of the left post.
On 82, Cork was taken off giving Emmanuel Mayuka a late run out in a bid to try and snaffle a winner, but it was Puncheon who immediately went closest when his controlled strike was jumped on by Begovic, who remained unmoved.
Prior to three minutes of additional time for stoppages, Mayuka went agonisingly close to a winner when he collected Shaw’s pass on the left flank, but the Zambian striker’s shot just crept wide of the near post, brushing the side-netting on its way out of play.
Full Time: Saints 1-1 Stoke