Post by Football News on Dec 14, 2016 23:23:15 GMT
Stoke 0 - 0 Southampton
Stoke survive early Marko Arnautovic red card to hold Southampton
From the moment Marko Arnuatovic was sent off for Stoke City at the mid-point of the opening half a goalless draw felt a hardly surprising result given the old cliche about 10 men being difficult to break down.
Southampton dominated what at times was a nasty affair but ‘could have-should have’ is another football maxim which concerns the bottom line being all about the result of a game. So, by the close Claude Puel’s side must have rued their profligacy and Mark Hughes’s troops could feel pride at their bloody-mindedness in hanging on for a point.
For this quintessential mid-table affair – 12th versus 11th at kick-off – both managers made three changes. In came Ryan Shawcross, Glenn Whelan and Jonathan Walters for Stoke, as Ryan Bertrand, Steven Davis and Shane Long were selected for the visitors.
Stoke threatened first. Xherdan Shaqiri wandered in from the right, slipped the ball beyond José Fonte, and Joe Allen’s shot forced a corner after Fraser Forster saved. This amounted to nothing as Charlie Adam’s overhead kick was off target.
This early warning was followed by more for Southampton. Allen again found space, this time a little deeper near halfway, and Adam passed into him and this turned the visitors and made them scramble to clear.
The best riposte was for Southampton to ask a question of Stoke and they did so twice. Whelan dawdled where no player ever should – on the fringe of his area – and he was robbed by Sofiane Boufal whose snap-shot was saved by Lee Grant. The second poser derived from another Stoke mistake, this time from a stray Erik Pieters pass, and from here Shane Long took aim at Grant.
The next culprit in this series of Stoke errors was the whole defence – Bertrand raced along the left and his cross should have been cleared but it was allowed to roll in front of Grant all the way to the other side of the pitch.
Now came the end of Arnautovic, and this was particularly unprofessional of him. Only 24 minutes had been played when the Austrian stabbed a boot high into Boufal’s thigh. Out came Robert Taylor’s card for a straight red that means a three-game ban for the 27-year-old, who should know better. The referee’s decision was accompanied by boos and when Bertrand took the free-kick he aimed this straight into Grant’s hands.
Some relief came for Stoke when Pieters repeated Redmond’s trick at the other end and skimmed a ball in from the left that raced before Forster, went uncleared, and ended up on the opposing flank.
The niggle factor remained, though. Allen launched a tackle at James Ward-Prowse that found only a foot, and the Welshman was cautioned as a result.
The unsavoury stuff had also included Long aiming an elbow at Bruno Martins Indi, which the striker may yet face retrospective action for as Taylor seemed not to see the incident.
What everyone wished to see during the second half was more actual football and less ill-temper. Southampton did begin in this fashion, playing some triangles that resulted in Pieters fouling Ward-Prowse on the edge of the penalty area. Virgil an Dijk stepped up and smashed the resulting free-kick at the defensive wall.
The visitors used their one-man advantage well. Cuco Martina was a persistent threat along the right and Redmond displayed a refreshing willingness to switch wings to aid the defender. Twice Redmond might have given Saints the lead. First, his cross-shot was palmed out by Grant; secondly his flick-on was cleared from the line by Pieters. In what was now virtually a constant press at the Stoke goal Bertrand came close to firing in a peach of a strike, letting fly a 30-yard bullet that had Grant flinging himself at the ball to desperately make the save.
Hughes had sent on Mame Diouf for Shaqiri, a move that had the Swiss punching a seat and plonking himself down in major huff-mode. This may have been the emotion felt by Puel, too, when he saw his own replacement, Jay Rodriguez, hit only air from close range when Boufal laid on what appeared a certain finish. It was that kind of night.