To say that Southampton performance was terrible would be giving them too much praise. Maurico Pochettino’s rotated team lacked any flair, pace or desire as they were beaten by Sunderland. A superb Craig Gardner goal was the only memorable moment in a game which won’t live long in the memories of anybody.
Sunderland made nine changes, with Saints making six, and this lack of match practise showed. The whole game was marred with sloppy passing and sluggishness on the ball. James Ward-Prowse’s half-volley from a Rickie Lambert knockdown tested Sunderland’s back up keeper Ustari. This was probably the highlight of the first half, with neither team looking like a Premier League side.
The second half was immediately an improvement, with Gardner picking the ball up 25 yards out, striking a sweet shot which dipped just under the bar. It was a sublime finish, but it failed to raise the standard of the match. Pochettino did little to inspire his team, as he didn’t even venture off of his seat until over an hour in, as well as failing to make changes until it was too late. Jay Rodriguez and Morgan Schneiderlin were brought on for Guly and Ward-Prowse, but neither made any real impact on the game. Sunderland looked the more likely team to score, as the introduction of Connor Wickham caught out the Saints defence on multiple occasions.
Southampton became more recognisable in the last ten minutes, and the stand out chance came to Rickie Lambert. Nathaniel Clyne beat his man down the right and whipped in an inviting low cross which fell for Lambert, but he managed to steer it over from just a couple of yards out. Sunderland threatened late on with a number of counter attacks, and Kelvin Davis was forced in to a solid stop from Fabio Borini, after Jack Colback squared it to him in acres of space.
In the end, Sunderland deserved their victory, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying they were the best side, just the least worst. With two more ‘big teams’ being knocked out in this round, you can’t see why either team felt they could throw this competition away. The Southampton fans that travelled up to the Stadium of Light deserve some sort of justice, after going all that way to watch that.
Southampton: K. Davis 4; Clyne 5, Yoshida 3, Hooiveld 4, Shaw 4; Wanyama 4, Ward-Prowse 5 (Schneiderlin, 62, 5), S. Davis 5; Do Prado 3 (Rodriguez, 62, 5), Lallana 4 (McQueen, 82), Lambert 4
Unused subs: Gazzaniga, Fonte, Cork, Chambers
Sunderland: Ustari 6; Celuska 6, O’Shea 6, Vergini 6, Dossena 6 (Alonso, 77, 6); Cattermole 6, Gardner 8 (Colback, 83), Larsson 7; Giaccherini 7, Scocco 6 (Wickham, 69, 7), Borini 6
Unused subs: Mannone, Roberge, Mavrias, Ki