12/05/2013: Sunderland 1-1 Saints

Saints secured Premier League football for at least one more season with a 1-1 draw at Sunderland. Mauricio Pochettino's side dominated the game, but still only just came away with a point.

Saints were well on top throughout the first half. The visitors looked comfortable on the ball, and pressed to good effect. Sunderland were extremely poor, continually giving the ball away. Saints dominated possession, but didn't create enough clear cut chances. Once again there wasn't enough cutting edge in the final third against a side who were there for the taking. The first major opportunity didn't arrive until just before the half hour mark, with Lambert firing a low shot at Simon Mignolet. Lallana and Rodriguez had further chances as Saints continued to threaten. Sunderland had a series of corners towards the end of the first half, but were otherwise kept quiet. Rickie Lambert missed an absolute sitter on 41 minutes, heading on before scuffing a clear shot at goal. Just before the break Saints came close again, following a swift counter attacking move.

Sunderland played with a lot more intensity during the second half, although Saints still dominated possession for the most part. Rodriguez tested Mignolet with a header on 51. Seven minutes later the same player had another aerial effort saved. Sunderland grew into the game slightly as time wore on, with Saints being made to pay for those missed chances on 68 minutes. A cross-field ball was headed back out to Adam Johnson, who beat Luke Shaw, before feeding Phil Bardsley, who rifled the ball into the corner of the net. Saints responded well, with substitutes Jason Puncheon and James Ward-Prowse combining for the leveller on 76. Lambert fed Ward-Prowse, who drifted out wide in the penalty area, before crossing for Puncheon. The midfielder's initial effort was saved, with Puncheon hooking the ball away on the rebound. Saints looked the more likely to grab a winner during the final 10 minutes. Lambert came closest, testing Mignolet on the volley on 87.

A poor game which Saints probably deserved to win on the balance of play. Defensively we were decent as a collective unit, but not always individually. The lack of goals recently is a concern, while a number of players have been well below their best in the last couple of weeks. Saints have achieved their primary objective of staying up however, and that's all that really matters. You could argue that the last few weeks have been a bit of an anti-climax, but it has to be considered a successful season, especially given the start we had. As ordinary as Saints have been in recent weeks, we could still go as high as 10th with a win against Stoke. Pochettino and co need to address certain areas of the team, but for now we should reflect on a job well done.

Attendance: 41,988

Match Ratings:

Boruc: 6. Didn't have a lot to do

Clyne: 7. Sliding tackle on Rose in the first half one of the highlights. Another solid showing from Mr dependable

Fonte: 6. Looked slightly shaky, gave the ball away a few times

Hooiveld: 6. Strong in the air, but had a tendency to hoof the ball forward too often

Shaw: 7. Dived in a bit too quickly prior to the Sunderland goal, but otherwise excellent. Made a number of well-timed challenges and looked good going forward. Suffered a knock which effected his performance slightly towards the end

Cork: 7. Another good outing, often helped to switch play

Schneiderlin: 7. Some typically brilliant challenges in amongst a general solid display

Lallana: 6. A reasonable performance, but you still would expect more from a player of his undoubted ability

Davis: 7. Decent high-energy display. A threat on the counter

Rodriguez: 6. Had the right idea, although a lot of the stuff he tried didn't really come off

Lambert: 5. Well below his best yet again. Looked off the pace and mostly poor in front of goal

Substitutes:

Ward-Prowse: 6. Looked very bright. Did well to set up the goal

Puncheon: 6. Great reaction for the goal