LONDON (Reuters) – Nathaniel Clyne’s late equaliser earned high-flying Southampton a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa on Monday, denying Paul Lambert a much-needed victory in his 100th match in charge of the Premier League strugglers.
England international Clyne’s rasping strike for second-placed Saints after 81 minutes left 16th-placed Villa still searching for their first win since Sept. 13.
Gabriel Agbonlahor benefited from Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster’s rush of blood to the head to fire Villa ahead after 29 minutes, the stopper racing out of his box to clear, only for Agbonlahor to beat him to the ball.
The striker kept his composure to slot home Villa’s sixth league goal of the season, the lowest in England’s top four divisions.
“It’s a good point gained against a team who had swept everything in front of them aside and if you look at the money spent by these sides it’s a big difference from us,” Lambert told the BBC.
“We’ve got six first team players out at the minute so I can’t criticise the team.”
Southampton appeared out of sorts despite a confident opening, their best moment coming when Brad Guzan was forced to make a sprawling save to deny Sadio Mane, tipping his low shot around the post.
But the visitors plugged away after the break and took home a point when Ryan Bertrand pulled the ball back for fellow full back Clyne, who made his England debut earlier this month, to smash past Guzan from 12 metres.
Ronald Koeman’s Southampton side, who had risen to second on the back of eight wins from nine games, are six points behind leaders Chelsea after 12 matches.
“I didn’t come for one point tonight. I thought we had a team good enough to win but after conceding it was very difficult,” the Dutchman said.
“We didn’t create as many chances as we should have and we missed some fitness and some quality, it was a misunderstanding defensively that made it more difficult for us.”
Southampton now face a tough test of their credentials to mount a sustained challenge for a top four place with their next three games against Manchester City, on Sunday, then Arsenal and Manchester United.