Saturday 21 July 2018

Benitez retains hope despite Magpies' latest capitulation

Southampton 3 Newcastle 1

Southampton's Graziano Pelle celebrates scoring their second goal. Photo: Philip Brown/Reuters
Southampton's Graziano Pelle celebrates scoring their second goal. Photo: Philip Brown/Reuters
Southampton's Shane Long runs at the Newcastle United defence. Photo: Clive Gee/PA Wire.
Southampton's Sadio Mane in action with Newcastle's Chancel Mbemba. Photo: Philip Brown/Reuters

Jamie Holland

Chances for Newcastle United to save themselves from relegation are running out fast. The gap between them and 17th-placed Norwich City remains six points and, if they defend as they did here, they could have 20 games left and it would make no difference.

Manager Rafa Benitez has seen his players pick up only one point since he took over four games ago - their sole point from the past 21 on offer.

Their injury-hit rearguard caved in after only three minutes and after that a ninth successive away defeat was inevitable.

The lack of defensive quality will have come as no surprise to the 1,700 Newcastle supporters who made the long trip south. But it was the total lack of heart for the first 70 minutes which will have been most concerning.

"Do we have enough time? We will see," said Benítez. "We don't have to be the best team in the Premier League, but to do better than the other teams in the bottom four."

Newcastle had lost 4-0 on their two previous visits to St Mary's, and must have feared a repeat when Shane Long rounded Jonjo Shelvey, strolled past Vernon Anita, the notional left back, ambled inside Steven Taylor and rolled the ball past Karl Darlow, all without any semblance of a challenge from a Newcastle player - shocking defending even by their abysmal standards.

Eventually, seven minutes before the interval, Newcastle shot themselves in the foot again. Daryl Janmaat completely misread a pass from Sadio Mane, allowing Dusan Tadic to run through and Long's heavy first touch turned into a perfect pass for Pelle.

Victor Wanyama made it 3-0 on 55 minutes with his first goal for 17 months before Andros Townsend curled home Newcastle's token reply.

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