Photo Gallery: Southampton’s Artur Boruc decides Norwich City’s place in Premier League table
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
It was perverse but somehow almost inevitable that after 36 Premier League matches without being awarded a penalty, Norwich City would fail to seize the moment when it came.
Referee Mark Clattenburg handed the Canaries an unexpected opportunity to move into the top half of the table on Saturday when he pointed to the spot in injury time at Carrow Road, deciding that 17-year-old Southampton full-back Luke Shaw had shoved opposing skipper Grant Holt, 14 years his senior, to the floor.
Oddly, it was Clattenburg who had given City their last penalty in a league match nearly 12 months earlier. On that occasion, Holt thumped it into the net to secure a 2-1 home win over Wolves before the striker was sent off late in the game for two yellow cards.
This time, despite a first-half booking, Holt lasted the full 90 minutes plus stoppage time, long enough to square up to goalkeeper Artur Boruc from 12 yards with the home crowd anticipating another unlikely late victory.
But Boruc, who kept his head while all around him were losing theirs and blaming it on the referee, had the final say – and a potential two extra points for City went begging as the 6ft 4in Pole dived to his right to make a fine save.
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There was an honourable handshake between the 'keeper and Holt at the final whistle, more honourable than the march on to the pitch by Saints manager Mauricio Pochettino to confront Clattenburg, for which he later apologised.
As the victim of a debatable penalty decision in the 2002 World Cup – when the Argentine was adjudged to have felled England striker Michael Owen, and David Beckham gleefully scored – Pochettino perhaps has a lingering sense of injustice, but Boruc had dealt with it and there was no need to tackle the official head on. Perhaps he had seen David Moyes' performance in the previous fixture at Carrow Road and felt it was a local custom.
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City, for their part, could not really grumble about the scoreline, even if the extra points would have been very welcome with a four-week wait to the next home game. Psychologically, 10th place would have looked a great deal healthier this morning than 14th.
The Saints looked the more fluent side for much of the contest and, until that late drama, Boruc had been given less to do than his opposite number, Mark Bunn.
Nearly 24 hours of rain before kick-off made for miserable conditions, with persistent sleet and snow added to the mix as the game progressed.
It took 18 minutes for either side to seriously threaten, when Bunn tipped over a powerful effort from Saints skipper Adam Lallana.
Sébastien Bassong then blocked a shot by Gaston Ramirez before Bunn made a fine save from the £12m Uruguayan when he was put through one-on-one.
It was Boruc's turn to keep his side on terms when he managed to claw away a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, but Bunn was next in action as he parried a shot from Shaw.
City lost winger Anthony Pilkington to hamstring trouble – and a potentially long lay-off – after 35 minutes, but there was an escape for the Saints just before the break when a Snodgrass cross whistled across the six-yard box and Holt appeared to have his shirt tugged by Shaw as he slid in. This time Clattenburg was unmoved.
Five minutes after the interval, Lallana missed a golden chance when he fired over from 12 yards after a cross by Jay Rodriguez was met with a weak clearance by Javier Garrido.
It became end-to-end and Japanese defender Maya Yoshida denied Holt with a timely interception as he looked to get on the end of a Snodgrass centre.
City were carved open again as Bunn parried a powerful shot from Rodriguez, Rickie Lambert blazing over the top from the rebound.
But, with 75 minutes gone, the hosts had their best opening yet when substitute Wes Hoolahan put Snodgrass through against Boruc, but after taking the ball round the 'keeper, it was again Yoshida's challenge that stopped him applying the finishing touch.
A flurry of substitutions failed to provide a winning goal, and despite Clattenburg's injury-time intervention, goal-shy City were left to reflect on their sixth 0-0 draw of the campaign.