13/09/2014: Saints 4-0 Newcastle
Saints hammered Newcastle 4-0 for the second season running. Ronald Koeman's men cut the visitors to pieces during the first 20 minutes, and had a couple of decent spells interspersed throughout the rest of the game.
Saints came out incredibly fired up. The intensity in which the team attacked was noticeable from the first whistle. Shane Long nearly scored within 25 seconds when he charged down Newcastle keeper Tim Krul. The home side continued to pour forward at pace and were deservedly ahead on 6 minutes. Ryan Bertrand floated the ball into the area for Graziano Pelle to head in for 1-0.
The first 20 minutes were incredibly open. On 8 minutes Pelle and Long linked up really well, with the former firing straight at Krul from a tight angle. Pelle, Long and Dusan Tadic were the most threatening and eye catching players on the pitch. Everything Saints did early on went through them. The three interchanged superbly, working the ball and opening up space. Mike Williamsonís weak header came back to Pelle 35 yards from goal. The Italian squared the ball with the outside of his foot to Tadic (yes it definitely was a pass) who had a clear run at goal. He squared it back to Pelle, who completed a simple tap in.
The home side took their foot off the pedal slightly midway through the first half. Saints were sloppy on the ball, but Newcastle didnít have enough about them to take advantage. They did have one great chance on 26 minutes when Sissoko was presented with the ball in the centre of the penalty area, but Fraser Forster was equal to the shot. Saints continued to sit back, but aside from one long range drive from Jack Colback, the visitors didnít really threaten too much.
Koeman was forced into a change at half-time, with Victor Wanyama coming on for the injured Shane Long. The decision to bring Wanyama on ahead of Sam McQueen or Emmanuel Mayuka was not necessarily a calculated tactical change. McQueen and Mayuka were probably only on the bench because of Saintsí lack of options in that area of the pitch. Koeman evidently decided neither were up to the task of adequately replacing Long.
With Wanyama's introduction Jack Cork moved into a more advanced role. He was involved in the attacking third early on, teeing up Tadic for an early chance. Saints were starting to regain their rhythm and put the result beyond doubt on 54. Steven Davis threaded the ball into space on the edge of the area. Cork nipped in ahead of a hesitant Williamson, drawing the keeper out before sliding into the net.
Saints toyed with Newcastle for the next 15 minutes or so. The home side relaxed and played keep ball amongst themselves. Newcastle did have a brief spell of pressure late on. Colback missed a close range sitter before Forster made another fine stop. Saints regained control by the end of the game and wrapped things up in stoppage time. A superb 33 pass move Ė which included a sumptuous backheel from Pelle Ė led to the fourth and final goal. Morgan Schneiderlin wrapped it up by perfectly placing the ball into the top corner of the net from inside the penalty area.
Newcastle were beyond awful, but Saints looked terrific at times, particularly early on. Defensively Koemanís side were rarely tested, but it really clicked at the other end, with the forward players all delivering. The home side did slack off a bit at times, and could have easily been punished by stronger opponents, but thatís only a minor quibble in what was mostly a good display. The new team looks to be coming together well now. Looking at the fixture list, there's no reason Saints shouldnít be able to retain their place in the top six or seven for the next few months or so at least.
Forster: 8. One dodgy clearance and flapped at a cross, but otherwise faultless. Two particularly brilliant saves
Clyne: 7. Coped well in some tough battles with Sissoko. Some clever defending
Fonte: 7. A few strong tackles, but not exactly the most challenging of outings
Alderweireld: 6. Could hardly have asked for an easier game to bed in. Took a while to get up to speed, but it hardly mattered because he was rarely troubled defensively
Bertrand: 8. Linked up brilliantly with Tadic on the left during the first half. Not everything he tried came off in the second, but always willing
Schneiderlin: 8. Not as prominent in the attacking third until the very end. Did the ugly work in midfield well
Cork: 7. Uncharacteristically sloppy in the first half, but back to his best after the break. Found some good pockets and took his goal well
Davis: 7. Quick feet helped to establish a good tempo
Long: 7. Linked up superbly with Pelle in the first half. Heavily involved in most of the major chances
Tadic: 8. Dynamite for much of the time he was on, but particularly during the opening quarter of the game. Carved Newcastle open on more than one occasion
Pelle: 9. Brilliant even without the goals. Some incredible footwork and solid in the air. Even got in some impressive defensive work at the other end
Wanyama: 7. Victorious in most of the duels he was involved in
Ward-Prowse: 6. Kept things moving as they were
Gardos: Debutant only got a couple of touches of the ball having come on late in the game. Alderweireld pushed into midfield following his introduction, allowing Schneiderlin to push forward and score the final goal
Saints - Pelle (6, 18) Cork (54) Schneiderlin (90)
Attendance: 29,678 (2,474 Newcastle fans)
Referee: Chris Foy
Saints: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Alderweireld, Bertrand, Schneiderlin, S Davis, Cork (Gardos 88), Long (Wanyama 46), Tadic (Ward-Prowse 67), Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Yoshida, McQueen, Mayuka
Newcastle: Krul, Janmaat, Coloccini, Williamson, Haidara, Anita (Tiote 46), Sissoko (Ameobi 88), Colback, Gouffran, Cabella (Perez 69), Riviere
Subs not used: Elliot, Obertan, Taylor, Armstrong