Southampton earned a late equaliser to prevent Sunderland from claiming their first win of the young season at St. Mary's. The visitors struck early and hard, claiming a third-minute lead, and then defended valiantly to preserve it only to be thwarted by Jose Fonte two minutes from time.
Sunderland might have lost their opening match last weekend against Fulham, but they got off to the perfect start here. Sebastian Larsson was the architect, his whipped free kick forced the Saints to concede a corner, and his follow-up delivery was no less dangerous. Hit hard and with plenty of movement, the cross found Emanuele Giaccherini steaming in at the far post, who duly knocked it past Artur Boruc to give the Black Cats a 1-0 lead.
The hosts attempted an immediate reply and had the ball in the back of the Sunderland net within 90 seconds. Unfortunately for the Saints, it didn't count -- Rickie Lambert's through ball found Jay Rodriguez a hair offside (so claimed the linesman, anyway), meaning his delight of a finish into the far corner was all for naught.
But Southampton, at least, responded to their early setback with an impressive display. Lambert was foiled by Keiren Westwood when his header from a James Ward-Prowse cross looked goalbound. It took an intervention from John O'Shea to deflect Rodriguez's flicked finish from a corner after more good work from Ward-Prowse.
Apart from their early goal, Sunderland didn't show much in the way of an attacking threat in the first half. But, the visitors nearly grabbed another goal within seconds of kickoff after Adam Johnson launched a diagonal ball behind the defense for Ji Dong-Won to chase. The substitute's shot was tame, however, allowing Boruc to make an easy save.
After that miss, normal, Saints-dominated service resumed. Adam Lallana slashed a half-volley just wide of Westwood's far post from an acute angle before Rodriguez somehow contrived to direct a free, point-blank header straight into the goalkeeper's arms. Jozy Altidore then wasted a prime chance to put the Black Cats 2-0 up after being played in by Ji, but his effort was well saved by Boruc.
The Altidore chance was an island in an ocean of Southampton attacks. Lambert could and should have drawn the hosts level when Callum Chambers picked him out with an excellent cross. He had no more luck in aiming than Rodriguez did earlier, however, and Westwood was able to gather once more.
By now, the hosts had as many attacking players on the pitch as it could bear, with both Pablo Osvaldo and Gaston Ramirez on as substitutes. Ramirez in particular was a handful for the visitors' defense, and Craig Gardner was very lucky not to be penalized for bringing the Uruguay international down on the edge of the box while on a yellow card. Osvaldo, meanwhile, was doing his very best to get an early bath, responding to being booked by giving Gardner a good kicking and then shouting at referee Lee Mason, who gave him an undeserved reprieve.
Just as Southampton were getting frustrated, they finally grabbed their breakthough. Centre half Jose Fonte struck where Lambert and Rodriguez had repeatedly failed, rising above the Sunderland defense to head Ward-Prowse's free kick into the bottom corner to make it 1-1 in the 88th minute.
Now that they'd made a breakthrough, there still seemed time for the hosts to find a winner. In the end, however, both sides would have to be satisfied with a very hard-fought draw.
Southampton starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Artur Boruc; Luke Shaw (Pablo Osvaldo, 45'), Dejan Lovren, Jose Fonte, Callum Chambers; Victor Wanyama, Morgan Schneiderlin (Nathaniel Clyne, 45'); Jay Rodriguez, Adam Lallana (Gaston Ramirez, 69'), James Ward-Prowse; Rickie Lambert.
Goals: Fonte, 88'
Sunderland starting lineup (4-4-1-1): Keiren Westwood; Jack Colback (David Vaughan, 54'), John O'Shea, Modibo Diakite, Ondrej Celustka; Adam Johnson, Sebastian Larsson, Craig Gardner, Emanuele Giaccherini (Connor Wickham, 82'); Stephane Sessegnon (Ji Dong-Won, 45'); Jozy Altiore.
Goals: Giaccherini, 3'