Southampton v Newcastle
Sunday, 15th October 2017
IBO Reporter : Spot51
Much was being made of the Master/Apprentice links between Rafa Benitez and Mauricio Pellegrino who had worked together at Valencia, Liverpool and Inter Milan. The two are clearly very good friends and this was their first meeting as opposing coaches.
Sky's studio pundits were Alan Pardew and Jamie Rednapp: Jamie was convinced Saints had to make a change after their recent failures to score and saw the introduction of Gabbiadini as a positive step.
Rafa was his usual mischievous self in the pre-match interview: he was unaware he'd made 2 changes since Newcastle's previous match and told the bloke from the Sky the result depended on which players performed. So there!
Roy Hodgson, fresh from Palace's win over Chelsea, felt able to be seen in public again and took his seat in the Directors' Box. Maya led the Saints out into a warm Autumn afternoon. Newcastle wore pale blue. I doubt I was the only home supporter who had their fingers crossed as Saints kicked off towards the Chapel Stand.
Saints seemed content to keep the ball but did nothing with it until Redmond's cross was headed away. Soon afterwards Maya's diagonal ball seeking Bertie went beyond him for a goal kick. Newcastle's first attack fizzled out when Manquillo ran the ball out of play down their left.
Saints continued to hog the ball and without it pressed well to get it back. On 8m Ritchie found Perez and Virgil conceded a corner. Shelvey's cross was knocked out as far as Atsu who fired a shot just wide. Newcastle were seeing more of the ball now and Virgil clattered Shelvey but was not booked. Then Cédric was obliged to react quickly to break up another attack.
On 13m Cédric beat Atsu to Shelvey's cross and Saints broke downfield; until a poor pass by Redmond squandered possession. Newcastle failed to capitalize. A minute later Cédric played in Tadić, but the Serb put his shot over the bar. The same player missed an even better chance when he headed over from Redmond's cross on 16m.
Fraser was almost undone when Perez charged down his clearance but the ball bounced wide. Newcastle then won a series of corners but Saints stood firm until Fraser was able to grab Lascelles' header.
The ball soon came back and Perez got down the left and found Atsu. His shot was blocked by Maya but the ball came straight out to Hayden; the midfielder's low drive caught Forster going the wrong way and rolled into the net. 20m 0-1.
On 22m Gabbiadini tried to hook the ball goalward but Lejeune blocked his effort. Redmond took the resulting corner; Virgil rose to meet it but his downward header went past the back post. Newcastle then tried to hold the ball for a period, but when Saints recovered it they failed to test Elliot.
On 25m Hayden fouled Lemina and Saints big guys came forward. Tadić and Redmond made a pig's arse of the free-kick sending a blue tide breaking upfield. Again, Saints won the ball back and Maya found Gabbi who missed the target. Lemina then sliced a speculative effort wide.
Newcastle looked too comfortable with Hayden and Shelvey protecting their back four. Saints movement was too laboured and when a cross finally came in, it was usually a Newcastle hea\d on the end of it.
Eventually, on 36m Tadić worked an opening for Long, but a Newcastle body blocked his shot. On 39m Lascelles fouled Long, enabling Saints to get men forward again. Bertie found Virgil whose header was cleared. Saints gave the ball back to Bertie who played in Tadic. His shot was blocked and the referee signalled a corner: Yedlin got a booking for protesting the decision.
Redmond, then Tadić, then Cédric all put crosses into the box, but every time Newcastle cleared their lines. At last, on 42m, a cross finally reached Long, but Elliot safely held his header. A rare Newcastle foray upfield saw a Ritchie overhead volleyed high into the Northam by Atsu.
The game was dying on its feet. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion and I was praying for half-time and a cup of tea. On 45m Manquillo's throw was volleyed over Saints' bar by Joselu. There was one minute added, during which nothing happened. HT = 0-1. Bollocks! While making tea I did notice the first half stats which Saints bossed all but two: shots on target and goals both registered 0-1.
I was cheered by the Sky commentator's observation that man had walked on the moon since Newcastle last kept a clean sheet at Southampton, but the away side were out long before our guys and looked up for the task.
Newcastle might have doubled their lead early on when Perez beat Virgil and his pass hit Joselu's outstretched foot and bounced off our crossbar. Virgil redeemed himself by rising to meet Shelvey's corned and powering it away.
There seemed little urgency and less quality in Saints build up play but suddenly a piece of individual brilliance brought us level. Redmond's hopeful long ball into the box was superbly controlled by Gabbi. His marker forced him to turn away from goal, but the Italian embarked on a circuitous dribble towards the edge of the box. As he came in line with Elliot's near post, the forward struck a firm, low shot which left the keeper grasping at air. The ball nestled in the net and the game was all square: 1-1 on 49m.
The relief was palpable – and brief. Newcastle went straight up the other end and re-took the lead. Ritchie took Virgil out of the game with a neat pass to Perez. The Spaniard's first effort was just blocked by Forster who failed to get it safe: Perez simply strode on and lashed the rebound between keeper and near post. 1-2 and the atmosphere in the stadium evaporated.
United enjoyed a brief period of dominance, but Saints gradually worked their way back into the game. On 54m Redmond put a reasonable cross into the box, but Elliot quickly dropped onto it. Soon afterwards, Redmond was crudely brought down by Yedlin. Already booked, it seemed the American would see red but the referee bottled it and did nothing. This probably cost Saints the win.
Pellegrino immediately took off Redmond and sent on Boufal to run at the right back. The next two Saints attacks were ended by Gabbi's indiscretions – first he was penalised for a needless shirt-pull on Lejeune and moments later was caught offside as the defence stepped out.
Ritchie won a corner for Newcastle, but the ball was cleared. Merino replaced Perez and took up a deeper midfield position but Saints were hardly threatening. The ball was continually given away.
Newcastle still posed a threat on the break, but Atsu shot wide before 2 more subs came on. First Davis replaced Romeu, then Rafa put on Gayle for Joselu. On 69m the backtracking Boufal fouled Ritchie. The former Cherries winger took the free kick which Virgil headed out. Lejeune collected and shot - high, wide and horrible.
Lemina was playing further forward than earlier, but his long cross was safely fielded by Elliot. On 72m a Long cross was cleared. Our dominance was not creating decent chances and the home crowd were now rapidly losing patience.
Two minutes later, Saints were level. Long was twice involved in a break down the left and ended up scuttling into the box after the ball. He got to it first but, inexplicably, with the ball going out, Lejeune brought the Irishman down and Mr Friend pointed to the spot.
Gabbiadini grabbed the ball and placed it on the spot. His stats showed he'd put all his penalties to the keepers' right but this time he sent it left. Elliot went the right way but the ball was well past him and it was 2-2. After the match, Jamie Rednapp reckoned this was the best penalty he'd EVER seen.
Newcastle responded positively and looked as if they meant to regain the lead. Lejeune rose to meet Ritchie's free kick but Forster held his header. Then on 79m Hayden was booked for a foul on Lemina which, as the commentator suggested, was no worse than that which saw Yedlin go unpunished.
Charlie Austin was warming up as the door-bell rang. I put the action on hold as Jen brought Heidi back from her 2-hour country ramble. Back at SMS, Ritchie drove a free kick wide before Austin made his entrance – replacing Long. At the same time Rafa put Murphy on instead of Atsu.
On 84m Hayden fouled Virgil and he too escaped with a stern word. I look forward to similar leniency for our persistent offenders. The lively Lemina made another foray forward and was unlucky not to find Tadic with his pass.
Saints tried to get another – first Elliot was obliged to punch Bertie's cross and Shelvey completed the clearance: Gabbi and Cédric then won a corner, but again Bertie's cross was met by the keeper.
On 89m Newcastle came close to a winner when Gayle's effort was put out by Cédric. Ritchie's corner was met by Lejeune and the Frenchman's downward header looked goal-bound. Fortunately, Steve Davis was on our near post. The Ulsterman dropped back onto the line and hacked the ball to safety. Well done that man!
In the final minute there was a nasty clash of heads when Hayden and Ritchie ran into each other while defending. Play was stopped until both were upright, by which time 4 minutes had been signalled by the 4th official.
The injury delay meant 6 minutes were actually played and Newcastle had the best of them. First Gayle was foiled by Forster then both Lemina and Van Dijk (twice) were needed to head crosses away.
But the final whistle sounded and Saints had rescued a point. It lifted them, temporarily, into the top half of the league and saw the apprentice earn an honourable draw with his master. It had been an exciting game for the neutral but harder to watch for those of the Southampton persuasion. Two goals and a point was better than we might have got, but Newcastle at home is the sort of game we ought to be winning.
Man of the Match
I'm looking no further than the man Sky gave their award to – Manolo Gabbiadini. Thanks for reminding us what scoring is like...
A difficult watch at times for Saints management team
17 van Dijk
14 Romeu (Davis 67')
22 Redmond (Boufal 57')
20 Gabbiadini - Booked 77'
7 Long (Austin 82')
22 Yedlin - Booked 40'
14 Hayden - Booked 79'
17 Pérez (Merino 63')
30 Atsu (Murphy 82')
21 Joselu (Gayle 68')
- Gabbiadini 49' , 75' (pen)
- Hayden 20', Pérez 51'
Referee : Kevin Friend
Attendance : 31,437
- Southampton 62%
- Newcastle 38%
- Southampton 12
- Newcastle 19
Shots on Target
- Southampton 2
- Newcastle 5
- Southampton 3
- Newcastle 8
- Southampton 11
- Newcastle 12