Saints held to frustrating stalemate

By SFC Media Sat 03 Mar Saints v Stoke
Photo by Matt Watson | Oriol Romeu
Sat 03 Mar 3PM
Premier League
Southampton
0
Stoke City
0
Cameron (41')
Referee: Anthony Taylor | Venue: St Mary's Stadium | Attendance: 30,335

A dominant second half went unrewarded as Southampton were held to a frustrating goalless draw by Stoke at St Mary’s.

A subdued first period made way to a far more open second, as Saints built attack after attack, only to be denied by a combination of profligate finishing and fine goalkeeping from England’s Jack Butland.

Sofiane Boufal spurned the best of the chances, heading wide with his very first touch after coming on as a 75th minute substitute.

Mauricio Pellegrino made one change to his starting line-up following the last-gasp 1-1 draw at Burnley last time out.

Impact substitute Josh Sims was rewarded for his Turf Moor cameo with a first Premier League start of the season – and only the second of his career – in place of fellow Staplewood graduate James Ward-Prowse on the right flank.

It was Saints who started on the front foot, forcing the visitors to defend a number of crosses, but were left temporarily exposed when chief danger man Xherdan Shaqiri led a Stoke counter-attack.

It was two on two and Shaqiri liked those odds, but partner in crime Mame Biram Diouf slipped at the vital moment and the chance came and went.

Diouf’s afternoon would come to an abrupt end midway through the first period, unable to continue after landing awkwardly under a high ball.

After what seemed like an eternity, Diouf walked off clutching his arm, and on came Erik Pieters – a left-back for a striker – as Paul Lambert opted for a tactical switch rather than introducing former Saint Peter Crouch in a straight swap.

Josh Sims was handed his first Premier League start since November 2016

It had not been a first half to live long in the memory, but Sims brought St Mary’s to its feet with a brilliant turn to spin away from Bruno Martins Indi on the halfway line.

All of a sudden Saints could play their own game of two on two, with Guido Carrillo making a run to Sims’s right, but back came Martins Indi at a rate of knots to recover the situation.

Carrillo was soon in the wars when Geoff Cameron took him out on the edge of the box. Referee Anthony Taylor played on, and when Dušan Tadić was crowded out, might have preferred the free kick in shooting range. Instead they lost the ball and Cameron was retrospectively booked.

The best chance of the half fell the way of Badou Ndiaye just before the interval. The midfielder had already chanced his arm a couple of times from long range, before Shaqiri floated a delightful ball over the top for Ndiaye to head goalwards.

It was only a deft touch, but enough to redirect the ball low to Alex McCarthy’s left, and the Saints keeper needed laser sharp reactions to flick the ball around the post for a fine save.

Saints needed more intensity and Sims looked the most likely to provide it. Seconds after the restart, Shaqiri fell but did not get the free kick and Sims took off down the left, racing into the box only to be denied by the legs of Butland.

When the resulting corner was only half-cleared, Mario Lemina drove a shot into the turf that bounced just a couple of yards wide.

Sims was involved again when Carrillo flicked on a left-wing cross, Cédric cut the ball back and Sims forced another low save from Butland, who this time held on with his hands.

Guido Carrillo competes for an aerial challenge with Stoke's Konstantinos Stafylidis

But Saints nearly suffered at the hands of a sucker punch when Crouch, brought on at half-time, headed on to Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, who briefly escaped the clutches of the home defence before Jack Stephens crucially intervened.

The game was opening up, as Pellegrino sent on Manolo Gabbiadini for Dušan Tadić and switched to 4-4-2.

Another chance fell the way of Cédric, who thundered a 20-yarder that Butland spectacularly parried to safety, before Nathan Redmond sent his former Birmingham teammate flying to his left to keep another goal-bound shot at bay.

With 15 minutes left, Sims was sacrificed for Boufal, with Saints desperate for someone to unlock the door.

With his very first touch, Boufal should have been that man. Redmond, now on the right, sprinted down the wing and crossed perfectly for the Moroccan, whose header from seven yards dropped agonisingly the wrong side of Butland’s post, with the keeper for once rooted to the spot.

Pellegrino’s last throw of the dice was to introduce Shane Long for the final ten minutes, but another Butland save from Cédric’s daisy-cutter spelled the end of Saints’ hopes of victory.

Today's match sponsor: EA Sports
Southampton

Head to Head Stats

Stoke City
  • Possession (%)
    65
    35
  • Shots
    18
    12
  • Shots on target
    6
    3
  • Corners
    15
    4
  • Passes Complete
    329
    162

Southampton

13
Alex McCarthy (GK)
6
Wesley Hoedt
21
Ryan Bertrand (C)
2
Cédric Soares
5
Jack Stephens
18
Mario Lemina
39
Josh Sims
Sofiane Boufal (76′)
11
Dusan Tadic
Manolo Gabbiadini (64′)
14
Oriol Romeu
22
Nathan Redmond
9
Guido Carrillo
Shane Long (79′)
23
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg
7
Shane Long
35
Jan Bednarek
44
Fraser Forster
20
Manolo Gabbiadini
16
James Ward-Prowse
19
Sofiane Boufal

Stoke City

1
Jack Butland (GK) (C)
15
Bruno Martins Indi
21
Konstantinos Stafylidis
Peter Crouch (45′)
2
Moritz Bauer
6
Kurt Zouma
20
Geoff Cameron
10
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting
Jesé (64′)
4
Joe Allen
22
Xherdan Shaqiri
27
Badou Ndiaye
18
Mame Biram Diouf
Erik Pieters (23′)
3
Erik Pieters
11
Jesé
29
Jakob Haugaard
8
Glen Johnson
24
Darren Fletcher
25
Peter Crouch
17
Ryan Shawcross
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