Post by Football News on May 21, 2017 16:47:39 GMT
Southampton 0 - 1 Stoke
Peter Crouch heads Stoke to victory over wasteful Southampton
Away team scorers Peter Crouch 60
If Claude Puel had plans of leaving with a bang then this was not it, with his immediate future as Southampton manager plunged into further doubt following a 1-0 defeat by Stoke City. Despite the manager guiding the club to an eighth-placed finish, Saints will discuss Puel’s position following an end-of-season review set to take place next week, and the club’s hierarchy were all present to witness Peter Crouch’s winning goal here.
In his programme notes, Puel said he hoped his team would “really kick on next season” although he may be deprived of the chance to do so, and the lap of appreciation at full-time was always destined to be painful for all involved.
The overwhelming issue for the Frenchman has been on home turf, where Saints have won just six league matches and badly struggled for goals, especially at St Mary’s, eclipsing a new record here after failing to score in five successive home matches.
With an end-of-season review set to take place next week, the club’s hierarchy, including chairman Ralph Krueger, chief executive Les Reed and owner Katharina Liebherr were all present to cast an eye on this battling but ultimately disappointing performance.
Southampton dominated the first half, with Stoke often second-best and sloppy in possession, but the visitors did see Mame Biram Diouf’s goal-bound header from Bruno Martins Indi’s looped cross cleared off the line by Cédric Soares on the brink of half-time. Moments later, Saints went tantalisingly close, with Nathan Redmond’s attempted lob on Jack Butland rattling the crossbar after the Stoke goalkeeper was caught in possession 20 yards from goal.
Both teams had been underwhelming of late, with Stoke having won just one of their previous ten matches.
At times Saints supporters did not know whether to laugh or cry, as the ball repeatedly came in dangerously from either flank but with no end product to show for it. Charlie Austin, making his first start since December following a shoulder injury, cut a frustrated figure. The lack of bite in front of goal was painful, verging on comical. It was no surprise to hear ironic cheers of “if anyone scores we’re on the pitch” from the home supporters.
After squandering countless half-chances, then came the inevitable. When Geoff Cameron marauded forward down the right, his deep cross was met by Crouch, who towered above Soares to head home his 10th goal of the season. Puel had to act and act fast, summoning Sofiane Boufal and Manolo Gabbiadini in place of Dusan Tadic and Austin, a decision that was booed by Saints supporters.
Southampton rallied but Butland matched their every move with a series of stupendous stops. He made a superb double-save from Steven Davis and then James Ward-Prowse before denying Gabbiadini one-on-one, and finally Boufal, by which point the damage – increasingly lasting for Puel – was already done.