MATCH REPORT: Stoke City 3, Southampton 3
Martin Spinks reports from the Britannia, Saturday
Stoke City 3, Southampton 3
Jones (16) , Upson (67), Jerome (90) Lambert (10), Rodriguez (24), Wilkinson (og,36)
WOW, what a game!
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Stoke's brave 10 men came from 3-2 down to grab an unlikely draw and maintain their 11-month unbeaten league record here at the Britannia this afternoon.
But they had to strain every sinew after being shocked by a sprightly Southampton, denied by some odd refereeing decisions and having Steven Nzonzi sent off in the 71st minute.
Stoke were awful defensively as they capitulated to a 3-1 half-time deficit, but there was no faulting their spirit against the odds later in the afternoon as they courageously - almost heroically - extended their undefeated run to 10 league games ahead of their New Year Day visit to champions Manchester City.
Like Boxing night against Liverpool, today's game opened with a bang in the first dozen minutes as Southampton went in front and Stoke should have equalised.
The Saints couldn't believe their luck when Guly Do Prado's deep cross from the Southampton left wended its way beyond both Matthew Upson and Andy Wilkinson.
And in came RICKIE LAMBERT behind Wilkinson to stroke a low first-time effort past Asmir Begovic low at his left-hand post.
City should have been level within two minutes when Glenn Whelan dummied a cut back from the right for Steven Nzonzi to let fly with a rare shot from the young midfielder.
His firm effort hit a defender and sat up for Kenwyne Jones, but the big Trinidadian lifted the ball over both the diving keeper and the cross bar from close quarters.
Jones was to have his revenge four minutes later, however, after great work by Ryan Shotton on his return to the side for the suspended Geoff Cameron.
Shotton received the ball back from a right-wing throw and then tricked his way into the box before drilling low, hard and square for JONES to outwit a defender's close attentions by cheekily back-heeling the ball inside the far post for 1-1.
But the form book was spat on from a great height once again when the visitors nosed back in front thanks to a terrible mix up in the heart of the home defence.
Lambert was given an age to cross penetratively from the right and as both the keeper and Robert Huth converged on the same ball, it was the big defender who got their first with an outstretched boot.
That left the ball careering against the cross bar and JAY RODRIGUEZ following up to tap home for 2-1.
Jason Puncheon then gave Wilkinson the run around by twisting hither and thither before unleashing a shot that Begovic was happy to parry away with strong hands to prevent the loss of a third goal.
Southampton's speed on the break continued to pose problems, particularly for Wilkinson, while at the other end Jon Walters overhit his pass to an unmarked Matthew Etherington just left of goal.
How Stoke could have done with that because more uncertainty between goalkeeper and defender in front of goal was to cost City dear in the 36th minute.
There appeared relatively little danger when Lambert headed down a deep cross, but Wilkinson and Begovic were never quite sure of one another and the defender's attempt at a hurried clearance under pressure left the ball looping off the toe of his boot past his own goalkeeper.
Half-time: Stoke 1, Southampton 3.
Walters cut in onto his right foot and belted a shot against a nearby defender, then Michael Kightly drove low at the keeper on the run, as Stoke tried desperately to seize the second-half initiative.
Cameron Jerome replaced Etherington after a long hold up following a clash of heads between Huth and Wilkinson which left both bloodied and bandaged, but unbowed.
The home crowd was trying to rouse their players as pressure built from a series of corners in front of the Boothen End - but it was Southampton very nearly scoring again when Rodriguez broke forward and rounded the on-coming Begovic before scuffing his shot against the back-tracking Huth.
There was an even bigger escape on 66 when Huth's error let in Rodriguez for a shot against Begovic's legs and then Do Prado blasted wide of an open goal.
What a reprieve, for Stoke were back in it a minute later when Jones saw a shot blocked in a crowded area from a corner and then UPSON followed up to fire through the keeper's feeble dive from 10 yards out.
And Stoke should surely have had a penalty shortly after when Jose Fonte raised a hand and appeared to flick the ball of Jones' forehead as they leapt for a right-wing cross into the Southampton area.
The decisions continued to go against City as Nzonzi was red carded after referee Mark Clattenburg accused him of going over the top in a challenge with Jack Cork in the 71st minute.
Now forced to play three at the back, City powered forward in search of salvation after adding Peter Crouch to the mix.
Still the clear-cut chances wouldn't come, however, while another penalty shout for handball went unanswered and earned Jerome a booking for protesting.
Jerome was in further pain after latching onto Crouch's flick on and lobbing over the keeper to fine the back of the net – only to see an offside flag rightly waving in the wind.
But he was to have glorious revenge with a hell of an equaliser in the 90th minute.
Jones flicked on for Crouch to lay the ball back and JEROME came steaming into his shot from over 25 yards out and saw his thunderbolt rattle in off the woodwork to joyous acclaim.
The award of seven minutes extra time left the game up for grabs for either side and there was no holding back 10-man Stoke as Crouch saw a close-range header beaten out by the keeper with the best chance at the death.
Stoke: Begovic, Shotton, Wilkinson, Huth, Upson, Kightly, Nzonzi, Whelan, Etherington, Walters, Jones. Subs: Jerome (for Etherington,57), Whitehead (for Wilkinson,70), Crouch (for Kightly,75). Not used: Sorensen, Palacios, Owen, Adam.
Southampton: Davis, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Fonte, Shaw, Puncheon, Schneiderlin, Cork, Do Prado, Rodriguez, Lambert. Subs: Fox (for Shaw,82), Richardson (for Puncheon,85). Not used: Boruc, Davis, Ramirez, Mayuka, De Ridder.
Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).