02/11/2013: Stoke 1-1 Saints
Stoke - Begovic (1)
Saints - Rodriguez (42)
Referee: Chris Foy
Saints extended their unbeaten run with a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Stoke. The conditions played a major factor in the direction and quality of the match. Saints may have just about edged it on the balance of play, although the end result wasn't a completely unfair reflection of the game.
A ferocious wind swept the Britannia Stadium before kick-off and would not subside all afternoon. Saints had no time to adapt before Stoke opened the scoring on 13 seconds with a freak goal from keeper Asmir Begovic. The Bosnian punted forward from inside his own penalty area. Both Jose Fonte and Dejan Lovren let the ball bounce for Artur Boruc, who completely misjudged the situation. No doubt the weather played a part, but Boruc should still have done better. Stoke looked more comfortable in the blustery conditions early on. For the first time this season Saints didn't look entirely at ease at the back. Stoke missed a half-decent chance on 8 minutes from a corner. A few moments later Marko Arnautovic headed wide following a counter attack.
Saints did eventually improve, slowly taking the initiative. Mauricio Pochettino's men were beginning to play the game on their own terms by the mid-way point of the first-half. Adam Lallana's clever chip across goal was headed over by Ryan Shawcross. From the subsequent corner, Lovren's downward header went just over the bar. Saints weren't always able to maintain that same rhythm throughout the half, but there were still some exceptional moments of quality from the away side. On 29 minutes Jay Rodriguez blasted well over the bar, having been played in by Rickie Lambert. The same two players combined once again on 34, feeding Lallana, who slipped on the edge of the area having been put through on goal. Saints finally got their leveller on 42. An incisive move down the right between Nathaniel Clyne, Lallana and James Ward-Prowse got things rolling. Ward-Prowse then provided a wicked delivery for Rodriguez to head down and over the head of Begovic.
The start of the second-half was very scrappy. Boruc made amends somewhat for his early error, with a fine stop from Arnautovic. Ward-Prowse then came very close with a 54th minute free-kick. The pace slowed after that early flurry of chances, with Stoke enjoying a bit more possession. Saints struggled to create too many opportunities during the final half hour, with the home side enjoying a reasonable spell of pressure. Oussama Addaidi made space for himself before curling wide on 81. Another mix-up between Boruc and Fonte nearly led to another opening for Stoke. Saints had a late penalty shout, with a number of players protesting furiously at referee Chris Foy for a handball. Ramirez was played in on goal in stoppage time, only to be flagged offside. By the end however, both sides seemed fairly content to share the spoils.
Far from a classic, but it could have been so much worse. Things didn't look too promising early on, but we showed good character to force our way back into it and claim something from the game. The performance was nowhere near perfect, but that was kind of excusable given the conditions. Saints did at least try to implement their style and play some decent football. Stoke were typically cynical and used every trick in the book in an attempt to gain an advantage. From our point of view it's a decent point away from home that keeps the momentum going ahead of a tough winter period of fixtures.
Boruc: 6. Unfortunate for the goal. Looked uneasy throughout the first half, but much better after the break, with one particular outstanding save
Clyne: 8. Another strong showing up and down the right
Fonte: 6. Not quite as assured as usual. Passing a bit off, but always well positioned and strong in the tackle
Lovren: 7. Took a while to adjust to the conditions, but excellent on the ball for the most part. Shone at both ends of the pitch
Shaw: 7. Afforded plenty of space down the left in what was a solid display
Ward-Prowse: 8. Some incredible delivery from open play and from set pieces
Wanyama: 8. A big presence in the centre of the park. Stoke struggled to get the ball off him
Schneiderlin: 7. Another player who sometimes struggled with the wind. Much more influential after half-time
Lallana: 8. Silly backpass near his own penalty area could have proved costly, but otherwise very effective in the final third
Lambert: 8. Created a number of chances with a superb range of passing and excellent movement
Rodriguez: 7. Understanding with Lambert and Lallana very impressive
Ramirez: 6. Won a couple of free-kicks with some decent running