In a match of precious few opportunities, and just as little good football, Shane Long missed the chance to give Southampton all three points against Newcastle in the final minute, sidefooting wide from 10 yards out with the goal gaping.
That was the standout moment of an attritional match in which both teams tried but generally came up short. Southampton had the better moments, also bringing two saves out of Martin Dubravka in the first half, but Newcastle were largely comfortable. They have three points from this Premier League season, each a 0-0 stalemate away from home.
Both teams began the match unchanged, the message from Mark Hughes in the programme that it was “imperative” his side played with a positive mindset – a bit like demanding a tightrope walker keep his eyes right in front of him (and don’t, whatever you do, look down). It did seem to work though, Southampton starting the better side with an intense high press and creating a chance for Danny Ings as early as the third minute.
Mohamed Elyounoussi set it up, his shot from the edge of the Newcastle box taking a deflection and catching the visiting defence flatfooted. There were Saints players standing offside, but not Ings, lurking at the far post. He got the ball under control and fired towards the near post but Dubravka stopped the ball with his legs.
Thereafter followed an extended lull. Southampton’s touch in the final third was off and as the match edged on, Newcastle learned how to work their way out of the press. For their own part, the visitors were winning the majority of second balls – of which there were many – and Jonjo Shelvey was the only player on the pitch apparently able to find time and space on the ball. That said, Rafael Benítez’s side did not make a chance of note.
Southampton crafted the game’s second opportunity five minutes before the break when a whipped cross from Ryan Bertrand was flicked on to the post dangerously by Mario Lemina. With the last touch of the half, centre-half Jack Stephens forced Dubravka into another good save, his header from a corner leaving the keeper sprawling to turn the ball wide at his far post.
The quality was not great from either side and low confidence meant low-risk football to boot. But both teams were doggedly plugging away and their approach did not change in the second half. Saints emerged and again went on the offensive, Bertrand crashing down the left and playing in Ings once more, but this time the Liverpool loanee found his route to goal blocked by his own strike partner, Charlie Austin.
Austin was removed just after the hour and replaced by Manolo Gabbiadini, an acknowledgement from Hughes that this little man-little man combination had not quite clicked. Five minutes after the switch Nathan Redmond should have opened the scoring after Elyounoussi’s cross eluded the entire Newcastle back four. But the winger lacked the necessary composure to pick his spot and Paul Dummett got a block in.
Benítez was the subject of the usual serenade from the travelling fans, who also had a lot to say to the watching Mike Ashley. The Spaniard made his first switch with just over 20 minutes remaining, Salomón Rondón replacing Ayoze Pérez for his first appearance in a month.
It did not change matters much. Nor did the addition of the rest of the allotted reserves by both sides. But then came the last chance. It started with Gabbiadini, whose cute turn 25 yards out was the game’s outstanding moment of skill. He threaded a pass for the onrushing Cédric Soares, who looked up and picked out Long. The ball arrived at the forward’s feet and the goal was gaping, but his right-foot shot rolled a foot wide of the far post.
Source: The Guardian