With Newcastle United facing certain relegation after their loss to Norwich City last week, Rafael Benitez’ team travelled to St Mary’s on the south coast to play Ronald Koeman’s side who are looking for the last Europa League spot.
Looking to make amends for the performance at Carrow Road last week proved difficult to find in this game as quite literally from the first minute, Newcastle gave in the towel and allowed Southampton an easy 90 minute ‘Training Session’ victory.
Almost certain relegation has hit everyone hard at the club as the performance epitomised the low confidence and fragility of a team doomed for the Championship. Newcastle played with heads even lower than usual and without the desire to at least put on a good showing for the travelling fans. The spine that so wonderfully characterised Leicester City’s great escape last year is non-existent in this Tyneside club.
Southampton had a great time – fans and players alike
Newcastle’s woes troubled them all game as Southampton giants, Sadio Mane, Graziano Pelle and Shane Long had a field day out on the pitch. Long scored the first goal in a manner that wouldn’t look out of place in a Sunday League game as the Newcastle defence was shredded and torn apart. Mistakes from every defender on the Newcastle team let the side down badly as new goalkeeper Karl Darlow was left unprotected, allowing the home supporters to relish the four minute goal.
Chances came thick and fast for Southampton who - actually caring about their football - looked to give their fans something to shout about as the team pressed the Magpies back four high. This pressure helped to force the mistake of Steven Taylor, who, in a worrying back pass to keeper Darlow, could have gifted away a second goal.
The home faithful must have thought it was their lucky day as Newcastle’s statuesque and uncompetitive nature during the match set the scene for a game full of goals. The past also smiles kindly on Southampton as the last two years at St. Mary’s against Newcastle have been 4-0 victories to Southampton.
With Southampton constantly on the attack, the second goal didn’t take too long to come as once more the key trio decimated the Newcastle defence with Daryl Janmaat making a grave mistake as he slipped after tracking the through ball allowing Pelle to beat Chancel Mbemba and slot the ball in the back of the net.
Newcastle just stood watching as their Premier League dreams became virtually unassailable.
The performance from Newcastle cost them the match
In football, there’s always the debate as to whether a team’s performance can affect the look of the other and in this game it was certainly the numerous faults and flaws of Newcastle that lost them the game, rather than the sheer brilliance of Southampton.
Regardless of Newcastle’s passive attitude to the match, Southampton played with their usual finesse and character which, when combined with the skill and talent of their players, made the travelling Newcastle side look like butter to their knifelike attacks.
The third goal ultimately symbolises the crisis this club is in as no one was marking Mane as he strove into the box to gift Victor Wanyama his first goal since November 2014. Aleksandar Mitrovic was guilty here and provided none of the impetus he’s had on the past two Newcastle games.
Newcastle’s humiliating list of results like this one has led, rather embarrassingly, to the team conceding ten, three or more goal margins so far this season, a joint high with the other relegated side, Aston Villa.
The team’s lack of pressure and sloppy attacking play cost them dearly which happened repetitively throughout the duration of the match. From the match there was just one glimmer of the talent and the potential it can spark…
Townsend goal was a stunner
From the onset of the match, Andros Townsend looked like the only player up to the task. Though it was not a world class performance in any sense of the word, he characterised the integrity and values that should be instilled in every Newcastle player.
When on the ball, he looked to advance the Newcastle team and his trademark cutting inside the box was the only potential salvation for Newcastle and so it was in the 60th minute when he curled his shot past Fraser Forster for Newcastle’s only goal of the game.
Sadly no other player in the black and white shirt could muster the same level performance as him and so it was Newcastle lost their ninth consecutive away game, the worst run since May – October 1977.
Newcastle are surely relegation fodder
The type of players needed for a relegation scrap are nowhere to be seen in this Newcastle squad. What escapees of the past have had is characters and based on the past couple of performances, there is no such player at Newcastle football club. The spine of the team is fractured but worst of all, there are no fighters proud to commit themselves for the emblem on their shirt and for the enthusiasm of the Newcastle supporters.
In no way can anyone criticise this as the fault of new manager Benitez. The foundations of Newcastle’s current position has long been in the making, probably pre-dating the arrival of Steve McClaren as well. Newcastle are a club certainly in turmoil and Rafa Benitez’s brave decision to stand atop the weak foundations of the club suggest that even the best managers around cannot stabilise the disconnected pillars that try to uphold the delicate construction of Newcastle United.
This game summarises the emotional and performance restricting effect the prospect of Championship football can have. The commitment given from the players was virtually non-existent and with no commanding and authorative players rallying Newcastle for a fight with Southampton, they were condemned to a humiliating defeat not just in the game but to the Premier League as well.