Stoke City’s goalkeeper Asmir Begovic scored after just 13 seconds with one of the longest-range goals in the history of professional football only to have his moment in the spotlight spoiled by Southampton’s Jay Rodriguez.
The Bosnia international, assisted by a considerable wind, punted the ball nearly 100 yards from close to his own six-yard box – after Saints conceded possession from the kick-off –and was stunned to see his effort bounce over his opposite number, Artur Boruc.
But Rodriguez took the shine off the 26-year-old’s landmark moment – his first career goal –with a header just before half-time that ballooned up and over Begovic.
Nevertheless, the former Portsmouth keeper can still lay claim to the joint-fourth fastest Premier League goal in history, beaten only by Ledley King, Alan Shearer and Mark Viduka and on a par with Dwight Yorke and Chris Sutton.
He also became only the fifth goalkeeper to score in a Premier League match following on from Peter Schmiechel, Paul Robinson, Brad Friedel and Tim Howard.
After Southampton gave the ball away from the kick-off, the Stoke defender, Erik Pieters, tidied up and passed back to Begovic who launched a clearance downfield.
Southampton’s two centre-backs, Morgan Schneiderlin and Dejan Lovren, both stood aside to allow the ball to bounce five yards outside the box but it immediately seemed to gather pace with the wind and looped over Boruc, on his own penalty spot, and into the net – a distance of approximately 98 yards.
There must be something about the Britannia Stadium which lends itself to long-range goals as Wigan defender Maynor Figueroa scored from two yards inside his own half in December 2009.
For Southampton fans, it would also have revived memories of their team conceding to another goalkeeper, Mark Crossley, who scored a late equaliser while on loan at Sheffield Wednesday in a 3-3 draw at Hillsborough in December 2006.
Begovic looked almost embarrassed and, if Stoke’s players were not sure how to react, Southampton’s were shell-shocked by the freak goal and it took them a while to regain their composure.
But Mauricio Pochettino’s side did not reach fifth spot without displaying a considerable amount of skill and resilience. Those traits have helped to produce a remarkable turnaround in the last 12 months as a year ago they were bottom of the table after 10 matches with just four points having conceded 28 goals.
So perhaps it was no surprise that they drew level three minutes before half-time. James Ward-Prowse swung a cross to the far post for Rodriguez to connect. His downward header bounced off the turf and over Begovic before nestling in the net.
Saints looked the more likely in the second half with Ward-Prowse coming the close with a curling free-kick that hit the top of the goal while Begovic pulled off a brilliant save to deny Gaston Ramirez, not knowing the Uruguayan was offside.
Stoke hardly threatened but defeat would have been harsh on Begovic, whose feat will live longer in the memory than this match.
Stoke City (4-5-1): Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Pieters; Walters, Nzonzi, Ireland (Assaidi, 65), Whelan (Palacios, 45), Arnautovic; Crouch.
Southampton (4-2-3-1): Boruc; Clyne, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw; Wanyama, Schneiderlin; Ward-Prowse, Lallana, Rodriguez (Ramirez, 69); Lambert.
Referee: Chris Foy.
Man of the match: Begovic (Stoke)
Match rating: 6/10
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