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Fonte's Saints future remains uncertain

AAP logoAAP 7/01/2017

Southampton boss Claude Puel refused to be drawn on why captain Jose Fonte was missing from the squad at Carrow Road as Norwich scored an injury-time equaliser to seal a 2-2 FA Cup draw.

Portugal defender Fonte was left out of the third-round clash completely after it was revealed earlier in the week the 33-year-old has asked to leave St Mary's.

Fellow centre-back Virgil van Dijk returned from suspension and opened the scoring with a volley, only for Steven Whittaker to level from the penalty spot after Saints' 19-year-old debutant goalkeeper Harry Lewis fouled Cameron Jerome.

The Premier League side looked set to be into round four when Maya Yoshida nodded Southampton back in front, but Steven Naismith's last-gasp effort means the sides will have to meet again to see who will make it through.

Whether Fonte will be at the club by the time the replay comes around remains to be seen after Puel was cagey when answering questions on his future after the game in Norwich.

"I think (executive director) Les Reed gave an interview about the situation, I have no comment," Puel said.

"I respect the possibility for Jose to see any opportunities in the window."

Pushed on why he had omitted Fonte from his squad, the Frenchman replied: "I don't want to give a reason, just to understand the situation with the player and questions about his future."

Southampton face Liverpool in the first-leg of their EFL Cup semi-final on Wednesday but Puel would not be drawn as to whether Fonte will be involved.

"I will take a decision tomorrow or Monday," he added.

"You can understand I cannot give an answer about this. It is between Jose and the club and we will see in the future.

"It is always difficult for all the teams, although it is difficult this period it makes it important for us to manage this period as best as possible."

The game was watched by less than 12,500 people as Norwich boss Alex Neil blamed the high ticket prices for keeping home fans away.

Neil was also less than pleased with defender Timm Klose, who was off the pitch when Yoshida headed Southampton back in front.

The defender had taken himself to the touchline after suffering a kick to his Achilles and received treatment before being replaced by Ryan Bennett.

But Neil wanted the Switzerland international to remain on the pitch so the Canaries were not left short at the back.

"Timm Klose goes down but decided to go off the pitch which I think is naive," he said.

"It leaves us defending with one last man. He could have gone down on the pitch and there is a stop in play and we can make a decision."

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