Before his 88th minute equalizer the most memorable image of José Fonte was his overzealous attempt to draw a penalty in the first half. It was emblematic of the Saints troubles for much of the afternoon, falling on the wrong side of many calls and a run of bad luck in converting chances in the penalty area. Netting the equalizer allayed some of my concerns about his play but he still seems the weak link in a solidifying backline. Fonte was an excellent defender in League One and the Championship, but he’s consistently been out of his depth in the Premier League and it’s especially apparent now that he’s paired with Dejan Lovren. Right place, right time and he stole a result for the Saints today, but going forward and especially once Southampton starts playing the bigger clubs I’d prefer to see Lovren paired with Maya Yoshida.
Issues with Fonte and playing from behind all afternoon aside, Southampton dominated possession (67% at FT) and youngster James Ward-Prowse was oft the engine driving their attack providing beautiful service from corners, free kicks and crosses. Though JWP played his best football in the first half he had an excellent chance at equalizing go just over the bar in the 52nd minute. Incendiary as JWP was in the first half, captain Adam Lallana powered the Saints push for an equalizer to start the second half. Every foray into the attacking third seemed to be fueled by Lallana’s furious runs, drawing a free kick within a minute of kick off and keeping the Black Cats on their heels until he was subbed off for Gaston in the 68th minute.
But for some spectacular keeping from Sunderland’s Westwood and a few questionable calls from the officials, including a Jay Rodriguez equalizer called back when he appeared to be onside in the 5th minute, Southampton easily should have put several in. Modibo Diakité and John O’Shea earned their pay at the back; tangling with Rickie Lambert all afternoon and frustrating the England man who even when play opened up in the second half struggled to get a good head on the ball.
-Jozy Altidore was a victim of his team’s early success as their defend-defend-defend policy after going up left him on an island at forward for much of the day though he did have a point blank opportunity denied on a break by Saints keeper Artur Boruc.
-Dani Osvaldo made his debut as a half-time substitution and was an integral part of the pressure Southampton kept up to start the second half, though he was ill disciplined and picked up a yellow for unsporting behavior after picking up a foul and was nearly sent off two minutes later for a foul on Adam Johnson.
-New man Victor Wanyama continues to impress in the midfield, well up to the demands of the Premier League and the defensive physicality Sunderland played with in trying to preserve their lead.
-Southampton haven’t scored more than 1 goal in a match since their 0-2 victory at Reading April 6, 2013