Report: All square on south coast

Southampton 1-1 Sunderland

Sunderland once again suffered south-coast heartbreak as Southampton struck late on to deny David Moyes a first Premier League win.

The Black Cats banished a slow start at St Mary’s and went on to control the opening 45 minutes, with a chorus of boos greeting the half-time whistle as the stunted Saints failed to make an impact.

A pattern had been established and the second period followed suit as the Black Cats bided their time and waited for an opportunity to pounce, and pounce they did as Jermain Defoe scored from the penalty spot after being fouled by Jose Fonte.

Without a win in August since 2010, Sunderland looked like ending their early-season hoodoo as time ticked away, but for the second time in successive seasons there was a late twist on the south coast as Jay Rodriguez snatched a point for Saints.

The arrival of team news at 2pm provided a boost for Sunderland who were able to recall Lamine Kone to the starting XI following back injury.

Javier Manquillo made his debut as Defoe led the Lads at St Mary’s, with Jordan Pickford starting between the posts as Jack Rodwell reverted to midfield after a spell at centre back.

Sunderland started brightly seeing a lot of the ball but it didn’t take long for Southampton to purr through the gears and find their rhythm.

Threatening down the right on multiple occasions, Euro 2016 winner Cedric Soares tore towards the byline at every opportunity, leading to a flurry of chances as playmaker Dusan Tadic began to orchestrate the play.

Pickford was equal to them, though, smothering a teasing ball into the box before Tadic sent a thunderous strike whistling over the top, with Charlie Austin taking a half-volley early to force another impressive save.

A slight lull followed but the game was sparked back into life by Lynden Gooch who was inches away from playing Defoe clean through, but Saints responded with another blistering counter attack as Austin was denied by Pickford from an offside position.

Two glorious opportunities followed for the Black Cats both of which fell to Kone, who was inches away from tapping home a Januzaj corner before heading wide from just six yards after the ball came back into the mix.

Southampton became increasingly frustrated as the opening 45 minutes wore on with Sunderland’s grit and determination coming out on top.

Januzaj’s influence grew as time ticked away and Matt Targett was unable to cope with the tenacious Borini, with a number of corners and set pieces putting pressure on Saints as the discontent within the stands continued to grow.

The half-time whistle was greeted with boos from the home fans as the stunted Saints exited the field of play, but there were cheers from the pocket of away fans as optimism swirled around the south coast air.

Sunderland continued to control the tempo of the game in the second period leading to further jeers from the home fans, with the frustration creeping onto the pitch as Steven Davis was booked for clattering Borini.

Austin provided the biggest threat for the home side running the channels and working hard, but Kone and Djilobodji were superb throughout and on the two occasions he did find a way through the offside flag was raised.

 David Moyes was forced into a change on 63 minutes as Borini limped down the tunnel and was replaced by Duncan Watmore, with Jeremain Lens joining the action soon after in place of the superb Steven Pienaar.

Southampton continued to press with the Black Cats tiring but Pickford continued to impress denying Redmond before producing a brilliant one-handed save to thwart Shane Long.

Redmond, who is an England under-21 team-mate of Pickford’s, continued to bamboozle the Sunderland defence but after letting fly for a second time in two minutes he was once again denied by a super stop.

With 78 minutes played the referee – already the pantomime villain according to the home fans – sent St Mary’s into meltdown, as Defoe twisted in the box and was felled by Fonte.

A moment that lasted a lifetime followed as the travelling fans held their collective breath, but there was only going to be one result as Defoe stepped up and duly sent Sunderland into a 1-0 lead.

Southampton piled forward in search of an equaliser but the Black Cats resiliently stuck to their task, but a cruel twist of fate saw Saints find a fortunate equaliser with just five minutes remaining as Rodriguez’s strike squirmed under Pickford.

Both sides pushed for a winner but it remained level as Sunderland picked up their first point of the Moyes era.

Sunderland: Pickford, Manquillo, Djilobodji, Kone, van Aanholt, Rodwell, Pienaar (Lens 67), Gooch (Love 77), Borini (Watmore 64), Januzaj, Defoe.
Substitutes: Stryjek, Khazri, Lens, McNair, Asoro.

Southampton: Forster, Cedric, Fonte, Davis, Austin (Rodriguez 74), Tadic (Long 67), Romeu, van Dijk, Redmond, Hojbjerg (Ward-Prowse 82), Targett.
Substitutes: Yoshida, Clasie, McCarthy, Bertrand.

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