Sunderland still in relegation battle after Southampton draw

Sunderland's Danny Graham tangles with Southampton's Steven Davies
Sunderland's Danny Graham tangles with Southampton's Steven Davies

SUNDERLAND will have to wait on FA Cup winners Wigan to decide whether they face a last-day showdown at Spurs after being held by Southampton.

Paolo Di Canio’s side looked to be on course for the win that would secure their Premier League survival after Phil Bardsley broke the deadlock midway through the second half against the Saints.

But after Southampton levelled just eight minutes later through Jason Puncheon, a desperately lacklustre Sunderland were forced to settle for a point.

However, the Black Cats will effectively be safe if Wigan fail to win at Arsenal on Tuesday night, due to their superior goal difference over the Latics.

Phil Bardsley took the place of the suspended Craig Gardner at right-back, in the only change from the side which drew 1-1 with Stoke City.

But there was a welcome return on the bench, with Connor Wickham returning to the fold after five weeks on the treatment table with a calf problem.

Southampton made one change to the starting line-up, with fit-again midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin replacing the injured Giuly Do Prado.

Sunderland were a non-event going forwards during the opening 25 minutes, Di Canio’s side unable to retain possession or pose any threat to the Southampton goal.

The Saints looked livelier with the ball, but didn’t worry Simon Mignolet until the 27th minute when Rickie Lambert unleashed a low shot from 25 yards which the Sunderland keeper gathered comfortably low to his right.

Four minutes later, Mignolet was forced into a far more meaningful save when Jay Rodriguez shot through a crowded of bodies from Steven Davis’ corner and the Sunderland keeper palmed it away.

Sunderland finally mustered a chance five minutes before the interval when Seb Larsson curled in a corner from the left which was knocked back into the goalmouth at the far post by John O’Shea.

The ball fell invitingly for Adam Johnson, but the winger couldn’t generate any power on his shot from seven yards aand it dropped comfortably into the arms of Artur Boruc.

Moments later, Lambert had a golden chance at the other end, but after knocking down Davis’ ball forward, he could only scuff a weak shot at Mignolet, unmarked from six yards.

HALF-TIME Sunderland 0 Southampton 0

Di Canio made a change at the interval, with Wickham replacing the ineffectual James McClean.

But Southampton continued to look the more threatening side - Mignolet pushing away Rodriguez’s header from Davis’ right-wing corner in the 52nd minute.

It was Sunderland who made the breakthrough in the 68th minute though after Danny Rose’s left-wing cross was only cleared as far as Johnson on the edge of the area.

Johnson fed Bardsley down the right-hand side of the area and the full-back hit a sweetly-struck right-footed shot that deflected slightly off Jos Hooiveld and rocketed into the far corner.

But Sunderland’s lead only lasted until the 76th minute, as Southampton’s two substitutes immediately combined to forge the equaliser.

Lambert fed James Ward-Prowse down the left-hand side of the area and the youngster lifted the ball into the six-yard box.

Jason Puncheon met the cross which a header from six yards that Mignolet blocked, but the winger was alert to the rebound and tucked it into the net while lying prostrate on the turf.

Southampton regained the ascendancy after the equaliser and almost went ahead with three minutes to go when Lambert let fly with a right-footed half-volley across goal, which Mignolet managed to push away, low to his right.

FULL-TIME Sunderland 1 Southampton 1

SUNDERLAND: Mignolet, Bardsley, Cuellar, O’Shea, Rose, Johnson, Colback, Larsson (Vaughan 75), N’Diaye, McClean (Wickham 46), Graham. Subs not used: Kilgallon, Mangane, Marrs, Mandron, Westwood.

SOUTHAMPTON: Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Hooiveld, Shaw, Cork (Ward-Prowse 72), Schneiderlin, S Davis, Rodriguez, Lallana (Puncheon 72), Lambert. Subs not used: K Davis, Yoshida, Forren, Mayuka, De Ridder. Booked: Rodriguez (72)

Attendance: 41,988