Premier League: Southampton 1 Norwich 1
By Football News
Norwich extended their undefeated streak to seven games with a 1-1 draw at Southampton, who were pegged back by another defensive blunder.
The in-form Saints deservedly took the first-half lead at St Mary's Stadium through Rickie Lambert's opportunistic prod home from close range on 32 minutes.
But Norwich soon gathered momentum and levelled shortly before half-time when Saints keeper Paulo Gazzaniga failed to deal with Robert Snodgrass' regulation free-kick.
It was difficult to predict a winner pre-match as Southampton came into the game unbeaten in their last three games while Norwich City had not lost since playing Chelsea at the beginning of November.
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 Norwich goalkeeper Mark Bunn early on.
The hosts came close after 10 minutes when the impressive Jason Puncheon crossed for 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 centred 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 whistle approached.
Snodgrass cleverly noticed 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 equaliser on the stroke of half-time giving them the impetus.
But Southampton grew stronger as the second half progressed. Puncheon, Ramirez and Lallana were impressive but the Norwich defence remained strong, restricting the Saints' efforts on goal.
As the game reached its climax both sides failed to find the winner that they deserved.