Newcastle United 3 Southampton 2
- Craig Pawson
A clinical first-half display and a battling second saw Newcastle United record a crucial victory over Southampton on a dramatic afternoon at St. James’ Park.
The Magpies led 3-1 at the break despite losing two players, Javier Manquillo and Callum Wilson, to injury. The visitors halved the deficit shortly after the break and were then given a major boost when Jeff Hendrick was dismissed for a second yellow card. A goal down but a man up, Southampton threw bodies forward in search of a leveller and, remarkably, they actually ended the game two players to the good after Fabian Schär was stretchered off with 12 minutes of normal time remaining. Somehow, though, United hung on.
Joe Willock and Miguel Almirón were on target for Steve Bruce’s side, Willock marking his debut by notching their opening goal 16 minutes in. The Arsenal loanee first showed a glimpse of his promise by creating a half-chance for Wilson early on, before taking his own opportunity with aplomb, timing his run into the penalty area to perfection to apply the finishing touch to Allan Saint-Maximin’s square.
Magpies ‘keeper Karl Darlow made an important save to keep out Danny Ings’ strike midway through the first half, denying the England international for a second time two minutes later with a rather more routine stop. Southampton looked to be finding a bit of belief at that point, but they were dealt a hammer blow just seconds after that as Almirón’s hopeful effort bounced off Jan Bednarek at the near post and nestled beyond a helpless Alex McCarthy.
Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side needed a swift response, and they managed to get it – in spectacular fashion – on the half-hour mark, as Takumi Minamino nipped in between two defenders before unleashing a thunderous left-footed effort to beat Darlow.
After losing Manquillo and Wilson, the Magpies looked to be hanging on a bit as the interval approached. But, with the last meaningful action of the half, they were gift-wrapped a third. With Southampton looking to play out from the back, Almirón nipped in after McCarthy played a poor pass to Bertrand and punished the visitors’ ‘keeper by tucking the ball low to his left to re-establish United’s two-goal advantage.
It was the first time in five and a half years that the Magpies had struck three times in the first half of a Premier League game, and they should have added a fourth just after the break as Jonjo Shelvey failed to connect properly with Willock’s centre. It looked like it might cost them dear, as James Ward-Prowse fired home a superb free kick from 30 yards just two minutes later. Darlow, it had to be said, could do nothing about it.
Within the blink of an eye, the pendulum appeared to have swung firmly the Saints’ way, as Hendrick was given his marching orders for a soft foul just inside his own half. It quickly became a game of attack versus defence, with the standing water on the St. James’ surface – the result of two days’ incessant rainfall – making for an added quirk.
Hasenhüttl’s side nearly restored parity through defender Jannik Vestergaard, who got up to meet Ward-Prowse’s corner but saw a goalbound header parried by Darlow. Then came another opportunity for Ings, who curled Nathan Redmond’s cutback onto the far post. The ball could have ended up anywhere, but Darlow, thankfully, managed to gather.
That, in the end, was the closest Southampton came to an equaliser. Ché Adams did have the ball in the net at one point, though it was chalked off for offside, while the introduction of Paul Dummett gave Newcastle added steel at the back. For long periods, though, there was an air of inevitability about a leveller – or possibly worse from a United perspective – but those concerns failed to materialise. Despite playing the final 12 minutes – 18, including injury time as well – two men light, the Magpies managed to keep the visitors at bay, scrapping their way to a huge win from a game that would have been worthy of a full house.