Southampton 1 Sunderland 1 match report: Jose Fonte’s leap keeps Saints alive at the last

Portuguese defender earns a draw for Pochettino’s men and leaves Sunderland still searching for their first win of the season despite early strike from Giaccherini

St Mary’s stadium

Sunderland are favourites for relegation this season according to many “experts”, an assessment based on a wholesale replacement of playing staff and the perceived volatility of their manager, Paolo Di Canio. But yesterday they came within two minutes of beating a Southampton team fancied to do well after the third-largest outlay on new players in the Premier League this summer.

Saints would claim a point was the least they deserved, and on the balance of play they had a strong case. Sunderland were not the better side at St Mary’s, and at times the game threatened to become a personal duel between Rickie Lambert and Keiren Westwood, the Sunderland goalkeeper. But Di Canio’s men were impressively resilient after taking an early lead and absorbed everything that Southampton could throw at them until Jose Fonte’s late header cancelled out Emanuele Giaccherini’s early opener. The Portuguese central defender, a veteran of Saints’ days in League One, succeeded where Dani Osvaldo, the club’s £14.6 million record signing from Roma last week, failed.

“I’m more disappointed than happy, especially with the way we conceded the goal,” Mauricio Pochettino, the Southampton manager, said. “It was a wake-up call. At the same time I’m happy with our hard work in the second half. We would have deserved to win on the second-half chances alone.”

Di Canio said: “My defenders did an amazing job against one of the best sides up front in the League. But we had difficulty with set-plays. I need a central midfield player with physical presence.”

Osvaldo began on the bench as Pochettino gave the team that won 1-0 at West Bromwich Albion on the opening day a vote of confidence. Di Canio made two changes to the team beaten by Fulham, bringing in Craig Gardner and summer signing Modibo Diakité for two more new boys, Cabral and Valentin Roberge.

Hampshire police were investigating a 15-person brawl at the Sunderland team hotel on Friday night, and although there was no suggestion that any players had been involved, a loss of sleep could have excused a dozy opening from the Wearsiders, but instead they looked sharp and opened the scoring after three minutes. Sebastian Larsson flighted in a corner from the left and as a knot of Southampton players rushed to the near post, Giaccherini, the shortest player on the field at 5ft 4in, took a couple of steps backwards and found himself unmarked to nod past Artur Boruc from six yards.

Di Canio leapt for joy and the travelling fans sang his name, although all were relieved when a raised flag denied Jay Rodriguez what would have been an equaliser minutes later. And Saints looked sure to level when Lambert’s header from a cross by James Ward-Prowse sped towards the bottom corner, until Westwood plunged to his right to parry.

England’s newest international then almost reached a long free-kick from the left that found its way across the Sunderland penalty area, nodding into the side-netting from beyond the far post. And he climbed above Ondrej Celustka to reach another cross by Ward-Prowse, only to head over the crossbar. But Sunderland held out until the interval.

Southampton put Osvaldo on for the second half alongside Lambert but Sunderland’s half-time substitute, Ji Dong-Won, would have doubled their lead with his first touch if he had not underhit his volley from 10 yards straight to Boruc. And Ji was the creator when Sunderland had another excellent chance, threading a pass through to Jozy Altidore, the American striker’s shot on the turn blocked by Boruc.

But for the most part the second half followed the pattern of the first, with Southampton enjoying the majority of possession. Adam Lallana’s volley from Lambert’s pass faded past the far post and after 57 minutes Osvaldo curled the ball on to the head of Rodriguez, who headed it straight at Westwood. The Sunderland goalkeeper had far more trouble with Lambert’s 25-yarder, palming it away at full stretch.

Pochettino made more changes, taking off his captain, Lallana, in favour of Gaston Ramirez, and moving the versatile Ward-Prowse to a holding midfield role, but the chances continued to come and go. Osvaldo’s moment arrived with 10 minutes left as Lambert nodded the ball across goal. But, under pressure from John O’Shea, he could only head weakly wide, and later only the leniency of Lee Mason, the referee, allowed him to get away with a challenge that might have been worthy of a second yellow card.

Osvaldo’s miss looked as if it would prove decisive until Ward-Prowse lofted a free-kick into the Sunderland penalty area two minutes from time and Fonte outjumped markers and team-mates alike to glance a header past Westwood.

Afterwards, Di Canio said of the hotel incident that he and members of his coaching staff were involved in an altercation, explaining they had been attacked by three drunk wedding-party guests but that no footballers had been involved.

Southampton (4-2-3-1): Boruc; Chambers, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw (Clyne, h-t); Schneiderlin (Osvaldo, h-t), Wanyama; Ward-Prowse, Lallana (Ramirez, 68), Rodriguez; Lambert.

Sunderland (4-4-1-1): Westwood; Celustka, O’Shea, Diakité, Colback (Vaughan, 53); Giaccherini (Wickham, 81), Larsson, Gardner, Johnson; Sessègnon (Ji, h-t); Altidore. Referee: Lee Mason.

Man of the match: Ward-Prowse (Southampton)

Match rating: 6/10

people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Ricky Gervais performs stand-up
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering