18/01/2014: Sunderland 2-2 Saints

Saints responded to a week of tumultuous off-pitch goings on with a good performance, but a frustrating result. Pochettino's men should have been out of sight long before Sunderland got back into it, but were eventually made to rue a series of missed chances.

The first half was ridiculously one-sided in Saints' favour. The early patient passing was rewarded with a goal on four minutes. Jay Rodriguez hit a brilliant volley on the edge of the area past Vito Mannone. Sunderland gave Saints an incredible amount of space, and failed to really pressure the visitors when they were on the ball. On 13 minutes Jack Cork tried an audacious lob with Mannone temporarily absent from his goal, but the Italian got back in time for an easy catch. Saints had a strong shout for a penalty when Jose Fonte was held back in the box. Moments later Luke Shaw's deflected shot clipped the outside of the post. Rickie Lambert squandered another good opportunity, shooting wide following some great build-up play. On 28 minutes Rodriguez fired a weak effort at Mannone after Lambert robbed the ball on the edge of the box. Saints' second goal finally arrived three minutes later. Dejan Lovren hooked the ball in following a corner.

Saints were in complete control, with everything good going through Morgan Schneiderlin and Jack Cork. The only worry for Pochettino's side was that all those missed chances would eventually come back to haunt them. That fear was not misplaced, with Sunderland pulling one back immediately after Saints' second. Fabio Borini latched on to a long ball in the box, beat the offside trap, before shooting on the turn past Boruc. Saints played out the first half pretty comfortably, with Lambert testing Mannone from a free-kick just before the whistle.

Sunderland had a few early breaks after half-time, with several attacking moves falling down at the last moment. Shaw made a fine individual run halfway up the pitch before driving straight at the keeper. Calum Chambers tried his luck on the opposite flank, but was met with the same outcome. It was all one-way traffic, with Rodriguez and Fonte notching efforts on target.

The hosts made a double substitution on 63 minutes, with Craig Gardner and Jack Colback coming on to add more steel to the midfield. The game gradually swung in Sunderland's favour. Saints were afforded less space with this fresh approach from their opponents. Borini had the ball in the back of the net again, but was ruled offside. Sunderland eventually levelled it up on 71 minutes. Adam Johnson smashed the ball through the grasp of Boruc and into the back of the net.

It was Sunderland who had all the momentum during the final quarter. Boruc was forced into a string of decent saves immediately after the equaliser. The chances petered out a bit towards the end, but there was still time for some controversy. On 83 minutes substitute Gaston Ramirez was taken out on the edge of the box by Wes Brown. The Sunderland defender nicked the ball away, but then followed through with a nasty lunge. Seconds later Lovren also went down after sliding in on Gardner. Both players had to be stretchered off. Saints were lucky that they had only used one substitute at that point, and were able to hold on.

Considering how dominant Saints were in the first half, Pochettino will probably consider it two points dropped rather than one gained. The injuries to Gaston Ramirez and Dejan Lovren were probably more disappointing than the result itself. Lovren has been one of the standout players this season, so it will obviously come as a huge blow if he is out for a while. The timing could hardly be worse for Ramirez. The Uruguayan no doubt feels he still has a point to prove at St Marys. He had just started to get a consistent run of form together, but this fresh injury blow could set him back to square one.

Some of the reaction to Brown's tackle on TV was very disappointing to say the least. The incident was glossed over by many of the same pundits who are usually outraged by things like diving. Dangerous challenges are obviously far more damaging than simulation, yet don't always generate the same level of anger. It doesn't matter that Brown got the ball, or that he didn't intend to hurt Ramirez, it was still a reckless piece of play.

Even though Saints will be weaker without Lovren and Ramirez, dipping into the transfer market this month would probably be unwise. Saints are pretty much assured of finishing either 8th or 9th, so new recruits probably won’t make much of a difference to where we end up. It would be far more beneficial to take stock of things in the summer and deliberate as to what we need in the long-term. No need to panic

Attendance: 38,115 (668 Saints fans)

Match Ratings:

Boruc: 6. Should have kept out Johnson's goal. Did make a few good saves when Sunderland were pushing for a winner towards the end

Chambers: 5. Steady in the first half, but a few defensive mishaps. Really started to wane by the end

Lovren: 7. Great goal, decent defensively and also strong when bringing the ball out from the back

Fonte: 7. Had a fairly comfortable afternoon for the most part

Shaw: 7. Looked good throughout. A couple of trademark charges down the flank

Cork: 8. The most impressive player on the pitch. Completely controlled the game in the first half, and continued to spray the ball about well in the second

Schneiderlin: 7. Dominated the middle of the park in the opening 45, but not quite at his best after the interval

Davis: 6. Bit of an up and down game. Passing hit and miss, but some decent movement

Lallana: 7. Sparkling as usual in the first half. Not quite at the same level in the second, but still pretty good on the whole

Rodriguez: 6. Great goal, but also wasteful on several other occasions too

Lambert: 7. Difficult to rank. Did miss a couple of good chances, but overall a decent outing by recent standards. Retrieved a few lost causes and won the ball back on more than one occasion with his incessant pressing


Ramirez: Made some tricky runs before being taken out of the game

Ward-Prowse: A few decent touches

Yoshida: Did what he had to do during the last few minutes