Southampton 0 Stoke City 0: Relegation fears persist after insipid draw
Southampton and Stoke City played out a dour 0-0 draw at St Mary's that helps neither side's fight to remain in the Premier League.
In a game of precious few chances, both sides will be left to rue lacklustre finishing on the few occasions they did carve out a clear sight of goal, with Southampton particularly profligate.
For the hosts, Josh Sims was twice denied by Jack Butland and Sofiane Boufal inexplicably headed wide late on when it looked easier to score.
Stoke's best opportunity fell to Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting but he showed all the confidence of a man who has scored just four league goals this season, taking too much time and seeing his effort deflected over the crossbar.
Stoke remain in the relegation zone and face the daunting prospect of hosting Manchester City next Monday. Southampton, meanwhile, sit one point and two places above them in 17th and travel to Newcastle United next weekend.
The fear of defeat permeated a cagey opening, so it was left to Stoke striker Mame Biram Diouf to liven things up with a wild 15-minute cameo.
First, the 30-year-old exchanged heated words with team-mate Xherdan Shaqiri after failing to latch onto the Swiss' pass at the end of a sharp counter-attack inside the opening 10 minutes.
Diouf was then lucky to avoid censure from the referee after petulantly stamping on the foot of Saints' defender Wesley Hoedt, before rounding off a miserable afternoon by leaving the pitch with a suspected dislocated shoulder.
Sad to see my bro leave the pitch in pain,hope it's not as bad as it looks,all the best! Touchant de voir un frere quitter Le terrain en douleur,j espere que c est pas trop serieux,les meilleurs voeux, #santeyAllahpic.twitter.com/LpziYYiDSl-- Pape Souarè (@papesouare) March 3, 2018
Sims should have done better after piercing the Potters' backline shortly before the break, but his hesitancy allowed Bruno Martins Indi to scamper back and block his effort.
The half's best chance followed soon after as Badou Ndiaye's header from Shaqiri's teasing cross was superbly tipped around the post by Alex McCarthy.
Southampton burst out of the traps after the interval and almost took the lead within a minute, but Butland blocked the lively Sims' effort at his near post.
The Stoke goalkeeper got down well to thwart Sims' low strike just before the hour as the hosts continued to look more likely to break the deadlock.
Choupo-Moting then showed blistering pace to latch onto substitute Peter Crouch's header, but took a fraction too long to clip his shot over the onrushing McCarthy, allowing Hoedt to get back and divert his effort over the crossbar.
Butland repelled Cedric Soares's crisp half-volley and Nathan Redmond's long-range drive in quick succession as the Saints continued to press.
Substitute Boufal should have snatched all three points late on but he could only head Redmond's inviting cross agonisingly wide of Butland's left-hand post - a fitting end to a game that showcased exactly why both sides are at the wrong end of the table.
Key Opta Stats:
- Southampton have picked up just one win in their last 16 Premier League games (D9 L6), and are winless in their last eight at St Mary's.
- Stoke registered an away clean sheet in the Premier League for the first time in their last 10 games in the competition, since a 1-0 win against Watford in October.
- Southampton mustered 18 shots in this game, the most they've attempted without scoring in a Premier League game since the opening day of the season against Swansea City (29).