An appalling display from Newcastle United as individual errors and a total lack of drive all over the pitch saw Southampton run away 2-0 winners in a game they dominated from start to finish.
Almiron and Sean Longstaff gifted Adams and Armstrong goals in each half, however the scoreline flattered us in the end, with us forcing McCarthy into just one save all night, losing the midfield battle unanimously and failing to have any answer for their non-stop pressing and intensity.
Steve Bruce named an unchanged side from the one that put Everton to the sword on Sunday – meaning Isaac Hayden again missed out as Jeff Hendrick controversially kept his place in the heart of the three man midfield; a decision we’d all go on to bemoan.
As for formation, he again trusted the new – and somewhat successful – 5-3-1-1:
I was feeling hopeful as the game kicked off, with the Saints without star man Danny Ings, however Miguel Almiron singlehandedly ruined any hopes of a strong start just seven minutes into the game.
He dwelt on the ball for far too long on the corner of his own box and unforgivably allowed Kyle Walker-Peters to pick his pocket.
Theo Walcott picked up the loose ball and he passed the ball across the box towards Che Adams who struck a fierce first time volley past Karl Darlow, who could’ve done better with the effort.
The dismal start continued as we looked completely smothered by Southampton’s energy. We lost possession on numerous occasions as a result of slow passing and laboured attacks. The opening quarter can be perfectly summed up by Karl Darlow, as Lee Ryder reported the ‘keeper telling his teammates to ‘wake the **** up’.
The football followed the same pattern for much of the first-half, with Southampton dominant. We only created two chances in the entire half – and they came from set-pieces. Said chances fell to Jamaal Lascelles and Sean Longstaff, who both should’ve done better with their headers; failing to test the goalkeeper.
Before half-time struck Southampton should’ve made it two. A moment of quality from Djnepo – and some awful defending from Schar – saw him flick the ball into the path of Walcott who drove toward goal and curled a low effort just past the far post.
Thankfully for us, the half-time whistle soon followed. A half full of defensive errors, needless fouls and terrible attacking game to an end. Fabian Schar, Jacob Murphy and Jeff Hendrick looked particularly out of sorts – all three were completely swallowed by Southampton’s intensity.
If anything, we were lucky to be just one goal down and I had little optimism ahead of the second-half.
Southampton nearly put the game to bed just five minutes into the second-half. Janik Vestegaard misjudged a free header at the back post and the ball eventually fell to Jan Bednarek, whose effort was heroically headed off the line by Jamaal Lascelles.
Moments later, Oriol Romeu’s sensational strike from distance rattled against the crossbar. It easily could’ve nestled into the top corner of the net if not for a brilliant fingertip save by Karl Darlow!
Darlow was again our saviour in the games next notable event. Jan Bednarek rose highest at a corner but saw his powerful header saved by the outstretched gloves of our stand-in number one.
As the final act of the game approached the only positive was that Matty Longstaff was back playing football, making his first appearance of the season – putting his injury and contract issues behind him in the process.
Southampton really should’ve had a penalty as the 75th minute struck, as Jamaal Lascelles hacked Theo Walcott down just outside the six-yard line. The skipper might’ve got a little bit of the ball, but it was a rash challenge and I’m amazed he escaped a VAR check.
Relief soon turned to despair as we saw Callum Wilson holding his hamstring. He limped off, being replaced by Andy Carroll. Joelinton also replaced Jacob Murphy but their impact was minimal.
When I thought the game couldn’t get any worse, it did. Sean Longstaff did his best to impersonate Miguel Almiron’s mistake as he needlessly lost the ball, being easily dispossessed by Stuart Armstrong; who then thumped a low effort past the helpless Darlow – making it 2-0 and game over, not that we were ever in it!
Joelinton nearly clawed one back with just minutes remaining in the game. Jamal Lewis found the Brazilian on the edge of the box with a fantastic delivery, and his excellent header was met by an equally stunning save; denying us any hope of getting back into the game.
I have to admit, I was glad to hear the final whistle which put an end to a truly horrific performance. We had no answer for Southampton’s intensity – we constantly lost possession, made unforgivable mistakes and created nothing going forward.
I’m not sure Steve Bruce even had a plan A in that game – never mind a plan B when we struggled to deal with Southampton’s energy from the off!
We’ve got the quality in our side to be playing so much better. Southampton’s team is no better than ours man-for man, but Hasenhuttl has given them an identity and a clear game plan – something we’ve never had under Steve Bruce.