Southampton 0-0 Newcastle: problems plain to see for both sides
Southampton 0-0 Newcastle: problems plain to see for Rafa Benitez and Mark Hughes as Premier League strugglers play out dour stalemate
- Mario Lemina hit the base of the post for the hosts in a turgid first half between the two struggling sides
- Martin Dubravka was forced into action just before the break when he stopped a Jack Stephens header
- The visitors offered very little going forward, with Jonjo Shelvey blazing over at the beginning of second half
- Nathan Redmond was denied by a goal-saving block by Paul Dummett as the hosts looked for a way through
- The best chance of the game fell to substitute Shane Long, but the Saints striker dragged his shot wide
With grim and unintentional irony, a mascot they were calling ‘Mr Monopoly’ was paraded around St Mary’s to promote a new Southampton FC edition of the board game, being billed as the ideal Christmas gift.
For Southampton, whose time without a goal on home turf now extends beyond 172 days, it provides a reminder of days when this club actually scored goals, given that Kevin Keegan, Matt Le Tissier and Rickie Lambert are allocated squares on the board.
A Newcastle version would be the ultimate indignity for supporters whose sentiments about their club’s owner needs little elaboration. Mike Ashley did turn up, which at least gave them the chance to express their views about him. ‘Go back to London and get out of our club’ is the publishable summary.
Southampton striker Charlie Austin barges into Martin Dubravka as he contest a cross into the Newcastle United area
The No 10 got to his feet first to fire the ball home, however the celebrations were cut short by the referee blowing for a foul
Mohamed Elyounoussi goes for goal when a cutback across the face of goal would have found Charlie Austin unmarked
MATCH FACTS, RATINGS, TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
Southampton (4-4-2): McCarthy 6; Cedric 6, Stephens 6.5, Hoedt 6.5, Bertrand 7.5; Redmond 6, Lemina 6, Romeu 6 (Ward-Prowse 78 5.5), Elyounoussi 6.5 (Long 78 5); Ings 6, Austin 5.5 (Gabbiadini 64 6).
Subs (not used): Yoshida, Vestergaard, Armstrong, Gunn (GK).
Newcastle (4-2-3-1): Dubravka 7; Yedlin 6.5, Fernandez 7, Lascelles 6.5, Dummett 7; Shelvey 7.5, Diame 6 (Ki 75); Ritchie 5.5, Perez 69 5.5 (Randon 68 6), Kenedy 5; Muto 5.5. (Atsu 79).
Subs (not used): Schar, Manquillo, Joselu, Darlow (GK).
Referee: C Kavanagh
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Southampton defender Jack Stephens was busier in the opposition penalty box.CLICK HERE for more from Sportsmail’s Match Zone.
The debate about Newcastle’s desperate diminution had raged long before the game got underway. At lunchtime, a BBC Football Focus report on the club seemed to suggest that Ashley had put his own money in. To the collective indignation of Newcastle fans, who correctly pointed out that the individual in question has put in only loans.
‘The problem that Rafa and Newcastle have got, is that he is shopping in Aldi,’ observed Alan Shearer. Which was entirely accurate. Southampton spent £13.5m on a reserve goalkeeper, Angus Gunn, this summer. Newcastle spent £9.5m on the centre forward, Yoshinori Muto, who was selected to lead their front line here.
Lead, in the loosest sense of the word. Muto provided occasionally pieces of intricacy but no material threat. Kenedy, one of the few of Benitez’s players capable of affecting the course of a game, wandered around with his socks around his ankles, assisting very intermittently and conceding possession just as much. The act of robbery inflicted on him by Nathan Redmond on 50 minutes was shocking to behold. The Brazilian’s diminution is a mystery to Benitez and his management team. Some within the club feel fatherhood seems to have affected his intensity.
Jonjo Shelvey was the only Newcastle player of Premier League class in a first half in which Southampton created the sparse opportunities. The best of them came from Mario Lemina, who adroitly navigated a smart, low Ryan Bertrand cross onto the base of the left hand post with his outside of his right foot. A header from defender Jack Stephens, for another sharp Bertrand delivery, sent Martin Dubravka’s dropping athletically to his left to save.
It was Ryan Bertrand’s wayward effort from the edge of the box which found its way to the feet of the Swiss international
Martin Dubravka was forced to get down quickly to his left at the end of the first half to keep out a Jack Stephens header
But Stephens’ effort was the only strike on target in a half which lived down to expectation, given that the sides had hitherto mustered only eight points and 12 goals between them.
For a side with a two-man strike force, Southampton are conjuring desperately few chances on goal. When Austin headed down, early in the second half, there was no sign of Ings arriving to seize the ball. Moments later, Ings ran into Austin as he advanced into the same section of turf.
The two are similar players; not the tall and small combination which can work well. The pairing did not work. Austin was withdrawn four minutes beyond the hour as Mark Hughes instead tried his alternative strike option, Manolo Gabbiadini. Ings was busy but never possessed the potency.
Southampton needed some – because one thing that can be said of Benitez’s side is that they display the defensive rigour he imbued in them after stepping into the chaos that his predecessor, Steve McClaren, left behind. A block from Paul Dummett, to repel Nathan Redmond’s shot just before the hour was the best of half a dozen from the visiting team.
Southampton striker Danny Ings screams for a penalty after he is brought down in the Newcastle United penalty area
Ayoze Perez attempts to turn away from Oriol Romeu but struggles to shrug off the attentions of the Saints midfielder
Hughes threw on Shane Long and James Ward-Prowse, too, looking for the home goal which so eludes him, though the worst was yet to come from his perspective.
A minute of the 90 was outstanding when Gabbiadini slid a clever ball into the right hand penalty box channel from which Cedric Soares laid a cross at Long’s feet.
The forward had time and space but slid his shot wide of the left hand post. He was not the only one left staring into the evening night sky in disbelief. When another chance fell for Gabbiadini moments later, he struck a speculative shot into the stand. Muffled boos rang out.
The Monopoly set is retailing at £35. Best of luck with shifting that.
Rafa Benitez talks to his assistant Mikel Antia (second left) and goalkeeping coach Simon Smith (far left) ahead of kick off
Southampton manager Makr Hughes cuts a frustrated figure on the touchline as his side endured a goalless first half
For the fifth game in succession, Newcastle owner Mike Ashley was in attendance along with managing director Lee Charnley
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