Southampton 2-2 Arsenal: Blistering open to second half sees Saints hold league leaders (video)
An end-to-end match saw Southampton dominate the table-toppers in the first half, only to waste a lead before coming back to steal a point.
Southampton were incredibly bright as they owned the first half and went into the break 1-0 up. Aside from a near-deadly charge by Arsenal to start the second 45, the league leaders would have left St. Marys with nothing
However, three second-half goals by the 54th minute had the match at 2-2 and that’s where it would end. The Gunners would receive a scare with Mathieu Flamini sent off on 81 minutes, but they held on.
The home side dominated the first half, owning nearly 70% possession and a 1-0 halftime lead, but the fun part was yet to come.
Three goals in the first nine minutes after the break saw the game knotted at 2-2,
The Saints began looking to play on the counter, and they got a few early chances as Arsenal were sloppy in possession. In the eighth minute young Sam Gallagher won the ball in the box and stung the hands of Wojceich Szczesny who saved well.
That attempt to play on the counter though built into full-on possession, and by 20 minutes played, Southampton had maintained nearly 75% possession.
That ball-hawking paid off, and a rare moment of frailty by the Arsenal defense gave Southampton the lead. Luke Shaw launched in a pinpoint cross following a free kick, and Jose Fonte rose above Laurent Koscielny to thunder home a header by the near post.
Nothing changed following the goal with the rain pouring down, as Southampton continued to batter the attacking third with possession after possession. Unfortunately they couldn’t capitalize on their next opportunity.
Gallagher was gifted a clear chance, as a clear by Nacho Monreal slammed into a Southampton player and fell directly into Gallagher’s lap, but with Szczesny bearing down on emergency duty, he stuck it wide.
Arsenal remained unable to get a shot off, running the clock down to halftime without an endeavor on goal. That wouldn’t last long.
Out of the halftime gates at St. Mary’s, Bacary Sagna found the ball on the edge of the Southampton penalty area, and he blasted a shot from a tight angle. With Olivier Giroud on the ground after a tussle with goalkeeper Artur Boruc, he managed a tip of the shot to deflect it into the net.
It was just Arsenal’s second shot of the match for their first goal, and it wouldn’t take long for the visitors to find another. With Mesut Ozil finding Santi Cazorla in some space behind the defense outside the penalty area, the Spaniard popped off a shot from range that slid past a surprised Boruc for a 2-1 lead.
But the lead wouldn’t last long as the second half continued to provide fireworks. Southampton went down and got themselves back into the match, as Jay Rodriguez collected a long ball on the left wing and he burst down the touchline. As the youngster sliced into the penalty area, he cut back for Adam Lallana trailing the play and he poked home to bring it back even at 2-2.
The match remained bright, and the two teams pressed each other with quality until a potential turning point occured with 10 minutes to go. Mathieu Flamini lunged into Morgan Schneiderlin, and referee Lee Mason sent him off directly. Replays showed the challenge was low, but the Frenchman went in two-footed with studs up.
Southampton jumped at the opportunity, and Szczesny did all he could to keep the home side out. He dove to keep out Fonte’s volley for a second with just four minutes to go. Each team would have a final chance, but neither side could earn the three points.
Arsenal will now sweat on their table-topping position, with Chelsea and Manchester City both within striking distance and yet to play. Southampton will be happy with the point, as they remain above the gap in ninth position, eight points above Swansea in 10th.
Southampton - Fonte 21'; Lallana 54'
Arsenal - Giroud 48'; Cazorla 52'
Arsenal - Flaimini (straight red) 81'
Southampton – Boruc, Chambers, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw, Cork, Schneiderlin, S. Davis (Do Prado, 90'), Lallana, Rodriguez, Gallagher (Ward-Prowse 70').
Arsenal – Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Arteta, Flamini, Ozil, Cazorla (Gibbs 86'), Gnabry (Oxlade-Chamberlain 70'), Giroud (Podolski 90').