A faultless Southampton display under the floodlights at St Mary’s saw them deservedly run out 2-0 winners over a lacklustre Newcastle side.
The win sends the Saints top of the Premier League for the first time in the clubs history.
Saints fans could have been forgiven for feeling worried prior to the game after hearing on Wednesday that star man Danny Ings is to be out injured for 6 weeks. Ings, who scored 22 goals last season, had carried on his remarkable form into 2020-21. In came loan signing Theo Walcott up front to partner Che Adams as boss Ralph Hassenhuttl, who has been nominated for October’s manager of the month award, bravely stuck by his favoured 4-4-2 formation.
The risk paid off though and any doubt from Saints fans was eradicated after only 7 minutes when the two strikers linked up, with Adams emphatically volleying home into the roof of the net from a Walcott cross. As so often in games this season, it was the Saints’ high press that worked perfectly. After tenacious work from Kyle Walker-Peters dispossessing Newcastle winger Miguel Almiron just outside the Toon’s penalty area, it was only seconds later that Adams had the ball in the back of the net.
Southampton continued to dominate proceedings in the first half, finding it easy to get through the disjointed Newcastle midfield and fashion chances, most notably in the 41st minute a magical flick from the lively Moussa Djenepo sent Everton loanee Walcott racing through and after cutting back on to his right foot, he sent a curling shot just wide of the post.
Newcastle were lucky to go in to the half-time break only a goal down.
Any inspiration Steve Bruce gave to his side going in to the second half was quickly diminished at the Saints came out by far the better team again.
A flurry of chances proceeded at the start of the half. Defender Jan Bednarek had a powerful half volley parried away by the Magpies’ ‘keeper Karl Darlow following a Saints corner.
It was the Newcastle ‘keeper again who kept his side in the game just moments later, producing possibly the save of the season so far to get his fingertips to a powerful Oriel Romeu shot that seemed destined for the top corner.
Despite the continued pressure from the Saints, who put in a hard-working professional display, they always remained vulnerable with the score still at 1-0. Nerves were heightened further when Steve Bruce bought on both Andy Carroll and Joelinton up front in a bid to get back in the match. It was looking like it could’ve been one of those smash-and-grab games for Newcatle.
The Saints had a strong appeal for a penalty in the 74th minute when Walcott was recklessly bought down by a lunging Jamaal Lascelles challenge in the box. On first viewing it appeared to be a good tackle from the Newcastle captain. However when the tv replay’s slowed it down Lascelles was seen to go over the ball and dangerously went to ground studs up, narrowly missing Walcott’s leg. You’ve certainly seen similar challenges given as penalties this season but in this case VAR failed to even notify referee Peter Bankes to go to the pitch-side monitor.
Any hope of a comeback wasn’t to be for the visitors.
As the game entered the last 10 minutes, even more space opened up for the Saints as Newcastle went pressing for an equalizer. Walcott went on another electric run, something he’d done so impressively throughout the game, but was dispossessed just as he entered the penalty area. However, Newcastle failed to clear and Armstrong was on hand to win the ball back in a dangerous area. What followed was a piece of magic from the Scottish international. Neat footwork in a tight area allowed him to arrow a left footed shot in to the bottom corner which finally give the Saints the second goal their performance deserved.
Comment: Stop the Count!
The win sent Southampton top of the Premier League (albeit until the rest of the top 4 played their matches over the weekend). If you had told Saints fans just over a year ago after their devastating 9-0 loss to Leicester, that they would be sitting top of the league now, they would’ve thought you were crazy. Much credit can be given to the Southampton board for sticking with their manager Hassenhuttl who has now successfully embedded his philosophy on to the football club. Every Saints player seems to know their role and is playing for the badge, which has led to this unprecedented success for the club.
The Saints’ twitter feed was understandably excited by the South Coast side topping the lead, mocking President Trump’s comments in the week throughout the US election’s aftermath. There was even an update to their Twitter bio – the home of the Premier League leaders (for now)!
STOP THE COUNT pic.twitter.com/rS94knWEhO
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) November 6, 2020
Ralph Hasenhuttl was unsurprisingly delighted with his teams third win in a row: “In every part of our game I must be happy tonight”
“It was important to show that we are one step further in our development now, this is not a coincidence, we’ve developed every part of our game (since last season)”
Having now won 16 points from a possible 18 in the last 6 games, the Saints will go in to the international break high on confidence. Their next game will be at Molineux against Wolves on Saturday 21st November. Earlier that day Newcastle, who will be looking to get back to winning ways, face a tough challenge in hosting Chelsea.
FT: SOUTHAMPTON 2-0 Newcastle (Adams 7′, Armstrong 82′)
Southampton: McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Stephens, Armstrong, Romeu (booked), Ward-Prowse, Djenepo (Redmond 74′), Walcott (Long 88′), Adams. Unused Subs: Tella, Diallo, Ramsay, N’Lundulu, Forster.
Newcastle: Darlow, Murphy (Joelinton 79′), Schar, Lascelles, Fernandez (booked), Lewis, S. Longstaff (booked), Hendrick (M. Longstaff 61′), Almirón, C. Wilson (Carroll 78′), Saint-Maximin. Unused Subs: Clark, Hayden, Manquillo, Gillespie.
Wessex Scene Man of the Match: Che Adams (Southampton).
Referee: Peter Bankes