Newcastle v Southampton
St.James’ Park, Sunday 9th August 2015
> Two goals conceded in each of the last five away games
> Jay Rodriguez starts after 18 months out
I suppose that it is a mark of how far Saints have progressed, that I was actually disappointed that they only came away with one point from Sunday's encounter with Newcastle.
In the lead up to the game it became clear that Clasie was not going to be ready for the game and it seems that he also might be borderline for the Everton home game next Saturday. This was much as I was expecting, but what wasn't, was to see Jay Rodriguez name on the teamsheets as a starter. Unexpected, but very welcome after so long away though injury. This gave a very attacking look to the team, with JRod, Pellè, Mané and Tadić up front, just Davis and Wanyama in midfield and a back four of Cédric, Fonte, Yoshida and Targett. Stekelenburg was in goal again.
From the off it was clear that this was a very different proposition from the limp performances that Newcastle turned in week after week last season. Right away they put the Saints defence under pressure, with Davis and Wanyama struggling to help. The pace of the game clearly came as a surprise to Cédric and he was quickly given a talking to by the referee. It didn't help and he soon found himself being shown a yellow card. At this rate I feared that he probably wouldn't make the end of the match without gaining another yellow card.
Fonte and Yoshida were like naturalised Dutchmen, running around trying to put their fingers in the leaking dyke that passed for Saints defence. They were both making mistakes, but fortunately none led to a goal.
It was clear that a goal was coming, but when it came, it was not Newcastle, but Saints that scored. In their first real attack, Cédric got almost to the byline and sent a wonderful cross in that Pellè headed home. Krul got a hand to it, but couldn't stop it going in.
The remaining 20 minutes or so of the first half were not exactly all Newcastle, but the Saints defence was definitely creaking. Just before half time the equaliser came and there was a slice of luck for Newcastle, in that the cross into the penalty area took a wicked deflection, completely wrong footing Stekelenburg and Cissé chested the ball into the net. Not a contender for goal of the month though.
At half time, Cédric was replaced by Martina. He was still having problems with the pace of the game, although he did seem to be settling in as the half wore on, but Newcastle were targeting him and we could well do without our first choice right back being sent off at this early stage. As it turned out, Martina proved an able deputy and played way above the level that I had been led to expect by everything that I had read about him. Erwin Koeman was right.
Almost from the kick off Saints were oh so nearly two up, when Yoshida was denied by Krul, who was diving the wrong way, but still managed to stick a foot out and somehow kick the ball over the bar. Even as Yoshida was still ruing the miss, Newcastle were breaking away and racing up field. Obertan on the right wing beat everybody and sent a wonderful cross in to the centre. Wijnaldum was racing up the centre of the pitch and met the cross, without breaking his stride. 2-1 to Newcastle. A wonderful goal. Unfortunately.
Rodriguez had looked off the pace and his timing was also off, but this will get better the more he plays. When he started to tire, it was no surprise that Koeman replaced him with Shane Long. This was the second substitution that Erwin Koeman had got exactly right, as from the moment that Long came on to the pitch, Saints started to look more effective and gave Newcastle something else to think about.
Saints equaliser came a quarter of an hour later, with a wonderful headed goal that gave Krul no chance at all. Newcastle had shown signs of tiring and Saints took full advantage. In fact there were still more chances to win the game that fell Saints way. Mané had one chance blocked by Colback and somehow contrived to miss with another, both in the dying seconds of the match.
So, one point gained, or two point lost? In our corresponding fixture last year Saints lost at Liverpool, so I suppose you could argue that we are now better off than we were this time last season.
The plus points for me were, that Stekelenburg looked solid in goal again, Cédric looks as though he will be fine, when he gets used to the speed of the Premier League, Martina way exceeded expectations and JRod is on the way back.
The only negative was that we are clearly missing Schneiderlin, but when Clasie is fit again I am sure that he will fill that rather large hole.
Onwards and upwards, while thinking that at least we made a better fist of things than Arsenal did!
PS. Why do I find it so difficult to find anything nice to say about Steve McClaren?
10th August 2015
08 Anita (Tioté 68')
04 Colback - Booked
05 Wijnaldum (de Jong - 81')
09 Cissé (Mitrovic - 75' - Booked)
02 Cédric - Booked (Martina 45')
06 Fonte - Booked
08 Davis - Booked
09 Rodriguez (Long 65')
19 Pellè - Booked
10 de Jong
- Cissé 42′
- Wijnaldum 48′
- Pellè 24′
- Long 79′
FT 90 +6
Referee : Craig Pawson
Attendance : 49,019
- Newcastle 56%
- Southampton 44%
- Newcastle 9
- Southampton 15
- Newcastle 4
- Southampton 5
- Newcastle 6
- Southampton 6
- Newcastle 9
- Southampton 12