Injuries to Austin and Long sustained at Bournemouth made it almost inevitable that the strike force of Tadić, Mané and Pellè would start against Sunderland, and after all they had contributed to the eight goals scored in last year’s equivalent fixture. Martina also got an unexpected start in a back four, and with other players missing through loan spells, injuries or both, there was also a return to the matchday squad for Reed and Juanmi López, while Olufema Olomolo got a bench debut. To nobody’s great surprise, this match did not produce the free-flowing football we enjoyed last season, but there was a reasonable amount of action of note in a disjointed game, and a big finish that ensured it didn’t occupy the graveyard slot on Match of the Day. Mannone was the first half hero for the visitors making very good saves to deny Tadić and Romeu as Bertrand ensured the left flank was the more productive for Saints. On the other hand, Sunderland could easily have turned around in front after Khazri’s touchline free kick almost embarrassed Forster as it came back off the bar and Rodwell fired wide when he ought to have done better. So despite an improved Southampton showing after the break, danger signs were there, and for many fans they were flashing rapidly when regular nemesis Defoe replaced N’Doye. Saints were caught on the break in the 81st minute, not for the first time, and although Fonte claimed to have got a piece of the ball when desperately trying to stop Borini, the challenge owed as much to wrestling as football, so a red card was the inevitable result. It could have been worse, but Forster kept out Van Aanholt’s free kick but then Ronnie sent on Yoshida and having Yoshie and Defoe in close proximity really did get you worrying… within minutes Yoshida wasn’t strong enough to stop Koné and Defoe pounced for what looked like being the winner. That didn’t take into account a productive period up front for Van Dijk, culminating in an added time equaliser that was in truth a very good team goal thanks to assistance from Pellè, Bertrand and Tadić.
LSSC Man of the Match: Virgil Van Dijk, but his centre back mate had a less good day.
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