Tempers fray as Magpies survive Saints' rally
Newcastle 1 Southampton 1
Alan Pardew still maintains his sacking by Southampton in 2010 was "an injustice" and Newcastle's manager looked suitably frustrated by this failure to exert a measure of revenge.
No matter; it was an intriguing tactical duel spiced by a couple of smart half-time substitutions on Mauricio Pochettino's part. "A great game," said Pardew who would have wished Andy Woodman, Newcastle's goalkeeping coach, had not decided to initiate his own form of redress after Morgan Schneiderlin's heavy tackle, deemed worthy of only a booking, on Massadio Haidara during the closing stages.
A mass bout of push and shove involving backroom staff from both benches ensued with Woodman eventually being banished to the stands along with Southampton's goalkeeping coach, Toni Jimenez. Striving to play things down, Pardew rubbished suggestions Woodman had been spat at and stressed that "it was not a brawl."
After five wins in their previous six league games his initially dominant side began in confident mode and nearly took the lead when Luke Chambers cleared off the line from Loic Remy. It represented quite a let-off for a re-jigged Southampton side.
Pochettino's team eventually fell behind when, capitalising on Jos Hooiveld's defensive error, Yoan Gouffran met Mike Williamson's downward header and rounded Paulo Gazzaniga before tapping the ball into the unguarded net.
Pardew restricted himself to a restrained celebratory fist-pump. His decision to once again leave Hatem Ben Arfa, by some distance Newcastle's most gifted individual on the bench had been vindicated.
Gouffran may not be as talented but he is a highly effective, uber-industrious player. Although Vurnon Anita, the suspended Yohan Cabaye's fluid passing replacement in Pardew's central midfield, is pleasingly strong on vision and technique, Newcastle were missing Cabaye's stellar set-piece execution.
Southampton struggled to test Tim Krul during a first half when they lacked the midfield assurance so often offered by Adam Lallana. Along with Morgan Schneiderlin, Lallana was liberated from the bench for the second period in a revamp which saw Jay Rodriguez advanced to the lone striking role.
Southampton improved radically and, with Newcastle struggling to break them down, appeared imbued with new-found resolve. Catching Newcastle cold on the counterattack, Rodriguez played a one-two with Davis before slipping a shot beyond Krul.
Although Remy spurned a decent late opening Krul saved superbly from Rodriguez and St James' Park turned duly anxious as six minutes of stoppage time threatened to play into Southampton's counterattacking hands.
In the event all the late drama took place in the technical area. "I didn't see who started it but I think that was not a good example," said Pochettino.
"It's not good for football. Football is about high tensions and emotions but it was avoidable. We don't want it to happen again to us."