The two form sides in the bottom half of the table met at St. Mary’s in a game which seemed destined for a draw. Robert Snodgrass saved a point after Rickie Lambert's opener.It was difficult to predict a winner pre-match at the St Mary’s Stadium as Southampton came into the game unbeaten in its last 3 games whilst Norwich City hadn’t lost since playing Chelsea at the beginning of November.
The Saints were impressive early on and luck was on their side after 33 minutes when Rickie Lambert capitalized on an unfortunate ricochet in the Norwich defense, striking from inside the six-yard box.
The visitors rallied and Saints goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga gifted the Canaries an equalizer moments before half time. The Argentine fumbled a well struck free kick from Robert Snodgrass forcing Nigel Adkins to re-write his team talk.
Southampton remained unchanged following their 2-0 victory over Newcastle on Sunday whilst Norwich’s only change to the side that earned a last gasp point at Everton was enforced on them. Goalkeeper Mark Bunn replaced the injured John Ruddy who is likely to miss up to three months with a thigh problem picked up in the 1-1 draw at Goodison Park.
The home side started brightly, dominating possession in the opening 15 minutes with Gaston Ramirez particularly influential as the Saints looked to test stand-in goalkeeper Bunn early on in the game.
The hosts came close after ten minutes when the impressive Jason Puncheon crossed for Rickie Lambert, but the striker’s header back across goal eluded both the incoming Ramirez and Adam Lallana and the Canaries were able to clear.
Much of the talk before the game centered on the return of referee Mark Clattenburg, who took charge of his first match in a month after being cleared by the FA for allegedly racially abusing Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel.
It was inevitable that there would be a controversial moment and it came after just 33 minutes. The Saints took the lead after Norwich midfielder Snodgrass gave away a needless free kick out wide on the right. The ball was whipped in by Lallana before a ricochet off the back of Canaries’ captain Grant Holt hit the arm of Lambert before the striker prodded the ball home from inside the six-yard box. Norwich appealed in vain for a handball against the Southampton striker but Clattenburg waved way the protests and the goal stood.
Southampton controlled the first half but a goalkeeping error cost them as the whistled approach. Snodgrass cleverly noticed Saints’ goalkeeper Gazzaniga's poor positioning and powerfully struck a left-footed curling effort around the Saints’ wall. The ball bounced in front of the Argentine goalkeeper and he fumbled what should have been a routine save into the back of the net.
The visitors started the second half brightly with their equalizer on the stroke of half time giving them the impetus. The Canaries pressurized the Saints from the whistle penning them in their own half.
Southampton grew stronger as the second half progressed. Puncheon, Ramirez and Lallana were impressive but the Norwich defense remained strong, restricting the Saints’ efforts on goal.
As the game reached its climax both sides failed to find the winner that they deserved. Norwich returns to Carrow Road with a point, but the Saints manager will be disappointed that a goalkeeping gaffe has cost his side all three points.
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