Clinical finishing crucial as Southampton sink Newcastle
Southampton continued their majestic march on the top four after securing a vital 2-1 away win at St James’ Park, where Ronald Koeman’s Midas touch was in evidence yet again.
Exciting new loan signing Eljero Elia looks to be another inspired acquisition from the Dutch coach, as the speedy forward bagged a brilliant brace to catapult the south coast club back into third place.
A perfect foil for hard-working Graziano Pelle, Elia’s sharp finishing and performance summed up the Saints’ clinical showing, as Koeman’s men found the net twice from just three chances on target.
Pelle, who won the header that allowed impressive James Ward-Prowse to craft a fantastic first opening for Elia, continues to fall foul of the goal frame, as the Italy international sent a pinpoint cross from Nathaniel Clyne rebounding off the cross bar.
The poacher is struggling to recover his prolific early campaign form but, as long as he keeps dueling and contributing up top, there should be a place for him alongside Elia and wily Ward-Prowse.
Hosts Newcastle United could claim to have had the better of the clash at points, but wastefulness in front of goal cost them dearly, with the main culprit Remy Cabella, who spurned several fine chances.
It was Cabella’s compatriot Yoan Gouffran who benefited from a fortunate deflection to net the equaliser, which was a just reward for the home team’s early attacking intent.
Miscommunication between usually unflappable Fraser Forster and Florin Gardos saw the ball ricochet off an incoming Gouffran, who toiled hard throughout.
The Magpies’ backline struggled to contain a composed Southampton offence, though, as Daryl Janmaat allowed Elia to ease past him for both goals, and captain Fabricio Coloccini missed two key headers that allowed first Pelle, and then super substitute Shane Long, to spring decisive attacks.
Whilst Netherlands international Janmaat left a lot to be desired defensively, the Dutchman did offer a forward threat down the flank, as did left back Massadio Haidara, with the pair constantly pumping in crosses.
For all Newcastle’s exuberance and guile, with powerful Moussa Sissoko, crafty Cabella and nimble Ayoze Perez often combining promisingly, the absence of striker Papiss Cisse was certainly felt.
By contrast, the Saints’ made the most of their limited chances and their much-lauded rearguard also continued to be resilient, aside from the unfortunate early wobble that allowed the Magpies to equalise.
It was simply another exercise in control for Koeman, whose team repelled late pressure to triumphantly take all three points yet again.
Newcastle, however, remain in turmoil. While the present may be uncertain, though, the future looks bright.
Wingman Sammy Ameobi certainly looks a talent, after causing havoc in the closing stages. The 22-year-old tested full back Clyne, who had been otherwise excellent until the youngster came on for a cameo.
The Magpies’ interim coach John Carver, meanwhile, looks set to stay in limbo regarding his role, but Southampton’s superior organisation and finishing will surely not have helped to cement his position.