Southampton’s survival hopes were dealt a severe blow by Newcastle this afternoon, losing three nil in one of the worst performances in living memory.
A brace from Chelsea loanee Robert Kenedy and a third from Matt Ritchie gave Newcastle the most comfortable of victories in a game that Saints could ill afford to lose.
Their Premier League status is in severe jeopardy now, thanks to the manner of the loss in which Southampton looked dreadful from start to finish, and their manager completely clueless.
Newcastle had scored the fewest goals at home of any Premier League team, yet took just two minutes to ease ahead of Southampton.
Kenedy did brilliantly to take Jonjo Shelvey’s ball from deep down in the Southampton box, twisting his body and firing it past Alex McCarthy - Saints’ defence were nowhere to be seen and remained absent from thereon in.
The visitors were rocked, with Newcastle almost doubling their lead a couple of minutes later through Dwight Gayle. Shelvey’s scrumptious ball, played from the half way line, split Southampton in two with Alex McCarthy only able to race off his line to deny the Magpie due Gayle’s poor first touch.
Southampton did not improve and were turgid on the ball, surrendering possession tamely and offering absolutely nothing to threaten Newcastle. Failed one-twos, simple passes hit straight out of play and slow, predictable build up saw Newcastle sit comfortably on their early lead.
Saints’ profligacy was summed up by Mario Lemina, whose dawdling on the ball left Gayle with a golden opportunity to double the lead 24 minutes in. The Gabon was caught on the ball, deep in his own half, with Gayle one v one with McCarthy, who saved well down to his left.
The visitors threatened for a brief spell, with James Ward-Prowse battling well. Their first shot of the game arrived following Dusan Tadic’s cute reverse pass which led to Guido Carillo feeding Ward-Prowse. The young Englishman’s cross was cleared to Cedric Soares, who blazed his shot wildly over the bar.
Ward-Prowse drove at the Newcastle defence moments later, feeding Nathan Redmond who in turn found Carillo - who earned his side a corner.
Saints were building their first bit of real pressure, then disaster struck. Lemina tripped over on the edge of the Magpies’ box, the ball sliding past him with Newcastle racing up the other end of the pitch and doubling the lead. Ayoze Pérez fed Gayle in the box, who calmly laid the ball back to Kenedy who could not miss.
Saints were deservedly behind, and barely showed signs of being able to improve. Ward-Prowse’s free kick mirrored Redmond’s awful crosses before the break - both over hit and easily gathered by Martin Dúbravka at the back post.
Mauricio Pellegrino threw on Josh Sims and Shane Long for Tadic and Lemina at half time, yet it was Newcastle who continued on the attack.
Florian Lejeune volleyed wide from the edge of the box while Perez was gifted a free header from a corner, which flew just over the bar.
Kenedy nearly had a third 53 minutes in, fed from the right wing and allowed to take the ball on the turn and half volley wide. Saints’ defenders were missing in action.
Redmond did well seconds later, driving through three players only for his cross to be cleared; Newcastle again went down the other end to score.
Shelvey, brilliant throughout, collected the ball 35 yards from goal and drove at the hapless Saints’ back line, selling two dummies before feeding Matt Ritchie on the edge of the box. The former Portsmouth and Bournemouth man stroked the ball past McCarthy, into the far corner, and Southampton were finished.
Carillo forced a smart save from Dúbravka, sneaking across his man at the near post an hour in. Long expertly beat the offside trap, with Sims racing onto the ball and finding his the Argentine Carillo at the near post.
Newcastle dropped back following the third, yet Southampton showed very little late on. Long and Sims linked up well with 13 minutes to go, with sims forcing a good save from Dubravka.
Wesley Hoedt nearly made it four with seven to go, heading Christian Atsu’s cross out for a corner at the near post.
And so another must win game passed in Southampton’s awful season. Pellegrino once again set his team up negatively and is looks completely out of his depth; uninspiring, tactically naive and unable to organise his defence.
Make no mistake about it, crisis point has arrived for Southampton, who will only remain out of the relegation places should Stoke and Crystal Palace both lose. They do not deserve to survive on the evidence of today and it is difficult to see how Pellegrino is still in a job. Just when Saints’ desperately need positives, they have been battered by a poor Newcastle side.
Newcastle: Dubravka; Yedlin, Lascelles (c), Lejeune, Dummett; Ritchie, Shelvey (Merino 83), Diame, Kenedy (Atsu 78); Perez; Gayle (Joselu 70).
Subs: Darlow, Clark, Murphy, Manquillo, Joselu, Merino, Atsu.
Saints: McCarthy; Soares, Stephens, Hoedt, Bertrand (c); Lemina (Sims 45), Hojbjerg; Redmond, Ward-Prowse, Tadic (Long 45); Carrillo (Gabbiadini 66).
Subs: Forster, Long, Romeu, Boufal, Gabbiadini, Bednarek, Sims.