Southampton v Stoke City - Premier League

Southampton 2-2 Stoke City: Points shared on soggy South Coast

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Southampton and Stoke City fought it out for a 2-2 draw at a stormy St. Mary’s Stadium on Saturday, as both teams battled against the elements.

Saints took the lead in the 5th minute as Rickie Lambert curled in an absolute peach of a free kick to make it 1-0, but then a flurry of goals just before half time saw the game burst into life.

First up Peter Odemwingie slotted home coolly in the 38th minute, but then Steven Davis curled in a cross from the right that missed everyone and nestled into the far corner in a bizarre goal to put Saints back ahead five minutes before half time.

However Peter Crouch bundled home Stoke’s second goal in the 43rd minute, as the Potters made it 2-2 at the break.

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Despite massive pressure from the home side after the interval Stoke held firm and in terrible conditions in Southampton, the teams shared the points in a hard-fought encounter.

With the draw Saints remain in ninth and just two points away from Newcastle above them, while Stoke are in 12th on 26 points.

Saints went 1-0 up after five minutes when a handball on the edge of the box saw England international Lambert step up and curl home an absolute beauty to put Southampton 1-0 ahead.

The blustery conditions at St. Mary’s were playing a part, as Stoke were up against it in the first half.

Southampton looked more comfortable on the ball and were buoyed by their opener but Stoke continued to press high up the pitch to try and stop Saints from getting in behind them. A lung-bursting run from Davis saw right back Nathaniel Clyne force Asmir Begovic into a magnificent save in the 27th minute, as the rain hammered down on the South Coast.

(MORE: Premier League Roundup Chelsea go top, Liverpool hammer Arsenal, big wins at the bottom)

However in the 38th minute Stoke pulled level as Odemwingie beat the offside trap and latched onto a great through ball from Charlie Adam and finished superbly to make it 1-1.

But they didn’t stay on level terms for long, as a bizarre goal saw Saints go ahead when Davis crossed weakly from the right and the ball missed everyone and trickled into the net to put Saints 2-1 up.  Yet before half time Stoke made it 2-2 as Adam’s corner caused havoc in the box and Crouch headed home from close range to level things up again, after a mad five minutes of action.

In the second half the blustery conditions really came into play, as both teams struggled to get the ball down and spray it around. Southampton missed two good chances midway through the second period as Jay Rodriguez headed wide and Jack Cork skewed his shot off target, while Stoke looked to pounce on the break.

After an unforgettable second half, the final whistle went as the points were shared at St. Mary’s.


Southampton: Boruc, Clyne (Chambers, 80), Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw, Cork, Schneiderlin, S. Davis, Lallana, Rodriguez, Lambert

Goals: Lambert (5), Davis (40)

Stoke City: Begovic, Cameron, Shawcross, Muniesa, Pieters, Odemwingie, Adam (Nzonzi, 79), Whelan, Assiadi (Guidetti, 84), Walters, Crouch

Goals: Odemwingie (38), Crouch (43)

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.