“IT’S not how you start, it’s how you finish” – is an adage applied in many walks of life.
But it was particularly fitting for Southampton in their game against Sunderland at the weekend, where a little more ruthlessness in front of goal would have made all the difference.
For the second time in the league this season, Mauricio Pochettino watched his Saints outperform Sunderland but have to share the spoils at the final whistle.
And the Argentine knew that, just as at St Mary’s in August, this was an opportunity passed up by his players – especially after an opening half-hour in which they were almost wholly dominant.
Even when Sunderland finally sparked into life, Southampton’s statisticians could point out that the south coast side finished with more than 60 per cent of possession away from home.
“We needed to be more clinical in front of goal,” observed the Saints boss.
“We created many chances – twice as many as Sunderland – but we weren’t aggressive enough in taking them.
“In the future, we have to concentrate on our finishing when we are dominating the opposition like that.”
To make matters worse for Pochettino, two important members of his squad left the pitch on stretchers – striker Gaston Ramirez and centre-half Dejan Lovren in the closing stages.
As a way of bringing up a year to the day since he was appointed Saints boss, Pochettino would have hoped for better.
Having endured a media frenzy following the midweek sacking of Southampton’s high-profile chairman Nicola Cortese, Pochettino would have loved to have had people talking about progress on the pitch, rather than turmoil off it.
It wasn’t to be – the loss of a two-goal lead only adding to Pochettino’s frustrations.
“It has been a tough week,” he admitted. “I’m disappointed to only draw the game – we deserved to win.
“But, in the end, we leave with one point and two injuries; two injuries we hope are not as bad as they seem because you could see they were in a lot of pain.
“I have to say, though, that I am very happy with the performance of my players.
“We did not win, but they showed they are very good professionals and Southampton fans can be proud of them.
“A lot of things have happened at the club, a lot of questions are being asked, a lot of answers are needed, but we and the players just focused on the game.”