Southampton snatched a dramatic late draw at St. Mary’s, denying Sunderland their first win of the Premier League season in the process.
The Saints looked to be heading to their first defeat of the campaign, until defender Jose Fonte popped up in the 88th minute to head home James Ward-Prowse’s delightful free kick.
Paolo Di Canio was incensed with this teams late defensive mishap, but over the course of the 90 minutes a draw was the least Southampton deserved after having 67 percent of the possession.
Emanuele Giaccherini scored the opener with an opportunistic header after just two minutes at St. Mary’s Stadium to grab the lead for Sunderland.
But after that the Black Cats sat back and allowed the home side to put them under pressure. The Saints came close on several occasions but is seemed as though it was going to be one of those days.
Until Portuguese defender Fonte popped up late on to grab a draw.
For much of the game the Black Cats were under the cosh, as the home side pressed for an equalizer. But it was a dream start for Di Canio on the South Coast.
Just two minutes had been played when Sebastian Larsson‘s corner had been whipped into the box and diminutive Italian international Giaccherini rose highest to head home. Giaccherini is only 5 foot 6, so how he managed to head home will certainly upset Southampton.
It was also the 28-year-old Italian internationals first goal since joining this summer from Juventus and Di Canio’s team protected their 1-0 lead with their life.
However after just five minutes, Southampton thought they had equalized when Rickie Lambert slotted in Rodriguez who coolly finished to send St. Mary’s wild.
But the linesman had his flag up and Saints were denied an equalizer, it was certainly a tight decision but the assistant referee may have just got the call correct.
Then a flurry of chances came for the Saints as Ward-Prowse whipped in a great ball that Lambert headed towards the bottom corner but Keiren Westwood saved well down to this right.
Rodriguez and Lallana continued to play direct soccer but Sunderland weren’t in too much trouble. However they could have been on 35 minutes when Fonte appeared to be brought down by Sunderland captain John O’Shea in the box.
Ward-Prowse’s free kick found Fonte and O’Shea was lucky that a penalty wasn’t awarded as he jumped all over Saints’ Portuguese defender. USMNT forward Jozy Alitdore cut a forlorn figure up front for most of the game, as their was a severe lack of creativity from Sunderland.
But they just sat back and let Southampton attack them after scoring so early.
Just before half time O’Shea again was lucky to not conceded a penalty as he brought down Lallana in the box when he was about to get a strike in on goal, the Sunderland skipper was living a charmed life.
At the break Sunderland went in ahead but they’d hardly had a shot apart from Giaccherini‘s early goal. Pochettino brought on new signing Pablo Osvaldo and defender Nathaniel Clyne at half time, replacing Luke Shaw and Morgan Schneiderlin.
Southampton again spurned more chances, but looked livelier after Osvaldo arrived and in the 56th minute he set up Rodriguez perfectly with a chipped cross, but the Englishman headed straight at Westwood.
And less than a minute later, Altidore had his best chance of the game to score his first Premier League goal of the season.
The 23-year-old striker US national team forward was put clean through but Southampton ‘keeper Artur Boruc came off his line to smother Altidore’s shot at close range.
Southampton piled on the pressure as the final minutes ticked and Fonte’s header sent the sellout crowd wild at St. Mary’s Stadium.
The Saints are unbeaten after two games, sitting in third spot with four points. While Sunderland will take heart from a dogged defensive display but they have just one point from their first two games, leaving the Mackems in 15th place.
It’s early days for both of these teams.
Southampton: Boruc, Chambers, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw (Clyne 45), Wanyama, Schneiderlin (Osvaldo 45), Ward-Prowse, Lallana (Ramírez 69), Rodriguez, Lambert. Subs not used: K. Davis,S. Davis, Cork, Hooiveld.
Sunderland: Westwood, Celustka, O’Shea, Diakite, Colback (Vaughan 54), Johnson, Larsson, Gardner, Giaccherini (Wickham 82), Sessegnon (Ji 46), Altidore. Subs not used: Mannone, Cabral, Moberg Karlsson, Roberge
Goals: Giaccherini, 2 (Sunderland), Fonte, 88 (Southampton)