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Struggling Saints share goalless draw with Stoke

Saints were the better team but could not break the deadlock.

Southampton failed to ease the pressure on manager Mauricio Pellegrino as their lengthy wait for a Premier League home win was prolonged by a goalless draw with relegation rivals Stoke.

Saints’ last victory at St Mary’s came more than three months ago and they wasted another chance to boost their survival hopes after failing to break down the second-bottom Potters.

Pellegrino’s men dominated the second period but saw Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland keep out efforts from Josh Sims, Cedric Soares and Nathan Redmond before substitute Sofiane Boufal squandered an excellent opportunity to earn the three points.

It is now eight league games – stretching back to November 26 – since Southampton tasted success at their own stadium and they remain a point above the bottom three after being booed off at the end of both halves.

They also could have lost this one as Badou Ndiaye and Maxim Choupo-Moting threatened to score breakaway goals for Paul Lambert’s stubborn visitors.

While both teams were desperate for a win, they would also have been rightly concerned about the ramifications of losing this fixture.

It resulted in an nervous opening period devoid of any real attacking intent.

The main talking point of the first half was a serious-looking injury suffered by Stoke forward Mame Biram Diouf.

He hobbled off in pain clutching his shoulder to be replaced by Erik Pieters with just 23 minutes played having been clattered in the back by Saints defender Wesley Hoedt.

It appeared to be an obvious act of revenge following an innocuous-looking clash between the pair in Southampton box in the opening minutes which left Dutchman Hoedt holding his face.

Stoke boss Lambert had kept faith with the starting XI which earned a point at Leicester last week, while Pellegrino made one alteration, handing young winger Sims – who has recovered from a serious knee injury – his first league start in more than 15 months.

Sims added extra energy to Saints’ team but, after bursting past Bruno Martins Indi and into the penalty area nine minutes before half-time, he hesitated slightly, allowing the Holland defender to block his cross-shot as Guido Carrillo waited in the middle.

Potters midfielder Ndiaye, who earlier escaped a card for a bad tackle on Mario Lemina, came closest to putting the visitors ahead when his flicked header was tipped past the left post by Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy.

Saints showed more purpose after the restart and England keeper Butland did well to deny Sims, Soares and Redmond with a string of fine saves.

Stoke, who introduced former Southampton striker Peter Crouch at the interval, remained a threat on the counter-attack and a last-ditch challenge from Jack Stephens was required to divert over Choupo-Moting’s close-range attempt.

Pellegrino replaced Sims with Boufal 14 minutes from time and the Moroccan should have made an immediate impact, only to head wide from close range when unmarked as the game ended level.

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