Jonjo Shelvey

Southampton 2-2 Newcastle United: Spirited split of spoils

Leave a comment
  • Magpies lead 1-0 at half
  • Gabbiadini bags brace
  • Perez scores 86 seconds later
  • 31 total shots (19 for NUFC)

Manolo Gabbiadini scored a pair of equalizers, and Southampton came within a hair of a deserved win against Newcastle United in a 2-2 draw at St. Mary’s on Sunday.

Isaac Hayden and Ayoze Perez scored for the Magpies, who led in each half.

Newcastle inches to 11 points, staying ninth on the table, while Saints are dead-even with 10th place West Brom ahead of the Baggies’ Monday match versus Leicester City.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

There was good pace to the game early, and Christian Atsu missed the left post with a hard left-footed shot off a Newcastle corner kick.

Dusan Tadic had a chance for Southampton inside of 15 minutes, but his effort sailed over Rob Elliot‘s frame. Moments later, Tadic failed to head a Nathan Redmond cross into the goal.

Newcastle claimed a series of corner kicks as the match neared 20 minutes, but Jamaal Lascelles‘ header was claimed by ex-Magpies backstop Fraser Forster.

Hayden then scored, depositing a blocked Christian Atsu shot past a helpless Forster.

Saints began to assert a hold on the game over the next 10 minutes, and Maya Yoshida sent a tempting cross that found no bull’s eye in the 29th minute.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Forster saw a Joselu shot hit the cross bar and then pushed a rebound out for a corner kick.

That’s when Gabbiadini worked Javier Manquillo on the right edge, working to the top of the 18 and hitting a low left-footed shot past Elliot.

It was a fine goal.

Perez made sure the stalemate lasted barely more than 60 seconds, with Jonjo Shelvey starting a sequence that saw the Spaniard bury his own rebound from an acute angle for his first Premier League goal since March 5, 2016.

DeAndre Yedlin should have been sent off in the 56th minute when, on yellow, his studs-up challenge was let off with a warning.

Gabbiadini leveled for Saints when Shane Long hit the deck in the box after contact from Florian Lejeune.

The French defender had a header cleared off the line by Steven Davis in an 89th minute bid for redemption. It came during a stretch of near-complete Saints domination.

PL Sunday preview: Unexpected battlers at the top, bottom

Leave a comment

Sunday’s slate of fixtures features a pair of relegation battlers as well as a pair of top-six chasers, only very few of the above happen to be who you thought they’d be at the start of the season…

[ PL ROUNDUP: Man City, Spurs win while everyone else drops points ]

Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Everton — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Of the four sides set for action on Sunday, only Brighton have started the season as many predicted: in 16th after seven games, just two points clear of the relegation zone. Of the other three, Newcastle United would have been the next most likely to be faced with a relegation battle, but alas it’s Everton who head into Falmer Stadium 17th in the PL table, one spot and four goals worse off than the newly promoted Seagulls.

After spending $200 million in the summer, the Toffees were supposed to be the ones bidding to break up the top-six hierarchy — not Newcastle, as is actually the case.

“I accept that everyone is entitled to his opinion and as a coach I don’t run away from criticism,” Everton boss Ronald Koeman said this week. “We know within Everton that we currently play under our level and that the results should be better. The moment I made the move from Southampton to a club with such ambitions, I knew I could be in a difficult situation if investments were not accompanied by results. I’m pretty calm with it.”

As for Brighton, things are slowly but surely turning around. Having scored just five goals through seven games, four of the five have come in their last two home games — 3-1 and 1-0 victories over West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle, respectively. Brighton boss Chris Hughton, for one, isn’t panicking.

“We could have had slightly more than seven points but we’re a new team coming into this division and we’ve already played Arsenal and Man City,” he said this week. “There’s not a sense of satisfaction at this moment because when you have competitive players, you don’t like losing. But there’s more positives to come from the game than negatives.”

INJURIES: Brighton — OUT: Tomer Hemed (suspension), Steve Sidewell (back), Beram Kayal (leg), Sam Baldock (calf); QUESTIONABLE: Davy Propper (thigh) | Everton — OUT: Ross Barkley (hamstring), Ramiro Funes Mori (knee), Seamus Coleman (leg), Yannick Bolasie (knee); RETURNING: James McCarthy (knee)

[ MORE: De Bruyne’s brilliance lauded | Klopp no fan of Mourinho’s style ]

Southampton vs. Newcastle United — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

A win at St. Mary’s Stadium on Sunday could see Newcastle climb as high as fifth in the league table, depending on the margin of victory (a run-of-the-mill five-goal win would do the trick). Rafa Benitez‘s side is undoubtedly one of the biggest stories of the still-young season, having lost their first two games following a tumultuous summer of transfer dealings, only to rebound with three straight wins and points from four of the following five games.

As for their opponents, back-to-back losses to Manchester United and Stoke City leave Southampton chasing three points just to climb back into the top half of the table. While Newcastle will have been disappointed for the recent international break to arrive when it did (their 1-1 draw with Liverpool two weeks ago put everyone on notice), it couldn’t have come at a better time for Saints. These kind of early-season struggles are to be expected, though, according to midfielder James Ward-Prowse.

“This season we have a new manager, a new style of play and a few new signings as well, which have had a positive impact on the team,” he said this week. “It’s a building process still for us all, but it’s a positive one in the making. After this two weeks, it’s a great chance for us to hit the ground running and take the league by storm now.”

INJURIES: Southampton — PROBABLE: Shane Long (hip) | Newcastle — OUT: Paul Dummett (hamstring); PROBABLE: Jonjo Shelvey (finger), Matthew Ritchie (thigh), Christian Atsu (knee)

Benitez makes Merino loan a permanent deal for Newcastle

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Rafa Benitez knew he liked Mikel Merino when Newcastle United signed the dynamic midfielder on loan from Borussia Dortmund.

Did Rafa know the 21-year-old Spaniard would look like this big of a part of what Tynesiders call the “Rafalution?”

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Probably not, but Newcastle has made Merino’s loan a permanent deal, signing him through 2022. After 14 minutes off the bench versus Spurs on Opening Day, Merino has played all but 16 minutes of the Premier League season.

Here’s Benitez, from NUFC.co.uk:

 “I’m really pleased we have been able to bring Mikel to the club permanently. He has played very well since he joined us. He has settled in quickly, has a lot of quality on the ball and is keen to learn – that is a crucial part of his future development.

Stuck behind Julian Weigl and Nuri Sahin at BVB, Merino is a young 21 (June) has shown his skill alongside and without Jonjo Shelvey. As a valuable part of a rotation that has kept Isaac Hayden out of the mix at times, Merino is a good sign that Benitez has aims to develop Newcastle despite some problems with owner Mike Ashley (who is said to be shopping the club).

Klopp defends Liverpool: “Not far away from a real challenger”

Leave a comment

NEWCASTLE — Jurgen Klopp cut a frustrated figure throughout Liverpool’s 1-1 draw at Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Sunday.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

The German coach chuntered away at the fourth official on multiple occasions, seemed annoyed by Newcastle coming back onto the pitch later than usual for the second half and was screaming at his players as they allowed Newcastle to dictate the midfield and shut down any rhythm his side created.

Following Philippe Coutinho‘s screamer to make it 1-0, a sloppy, and now characteristic, defensive mistake cost the Reds all three points and Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Daniel Sturridge were all guilty of missing key chances.

Speaking to the media after the game, Klopp was tetchy as one reporter suggested it was a fair result for Liverpool to draw at Newcastle.

“Was it the first football game you saw?” Klopp replied. “Interesting. I thought we were the better and the more active side. We created better chances, didn’t we?”

Klopp went on to try and defend his team after the mistake for the first goal saw Jonjo Shelvey thread through a perfect ball for Joselu to run on to after his two center backs, Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren, were caught napping.

“It was a good goal. A good pass absolutely in the right moment. For me it looks like some of us didn’t see the ball because two or three players are in front of them,” Klopp said. “If they see it they have to make a step and then Joselu is offside and then in the end it is unlucky. We cleared the ball pretty much but the ball then went into the corner.”

Going into the international break Klopp’s side have 12 points after their first seven games of the Premier League season and have just one win in seven games in all competitions.

“It feels not to cool you can imagine. I played a lot of times with different teams in my life and got a point and after it feels like you won a point. We have a problem because we have to play better next game otherwise we will not get a point,” Klopp explained. “We are the better team. Again. We created better chances. Again. We were in very promising situations and then we don’t score. That is of course the problem. I know, I have been in football long enough that one day when the knot opens maybe we will score more than one time. That’s pretty likely.”

Asked further about a poor run of form for his side which has seen them lose in the League Cup to Leicester City, draw with both Spartak Moscow and Sevilla in the Champions League and now draw against Burnley, Newcastle United and lose at Manchester City in the last seven, Klopp believes scoring goals will solve the problem.

“There are different ways to get one win in seven. You can play really bad and lose most games or you can play more than a few games really, really good,” Klopp said. “Most of the games we were the better side. But a few chances are enough for the opponent to score and we need a lot more. That happens too often the last few weeks but the only alternative for us is to carry on.”

When they carry on after the international break they face Manchester United at Anfield on Oct. 14 with the Red Devils flying high along with Manchester City as they have 19 points from their opening seven games and are seven points ahead of Liverpool.

“Now it is the international break and the boys will go away and we all feel not perfect at the moment. The main problem is that football is not fair but people like you write things about it and boys read it. That makes it even worse,” Klopp said. “You feel you have a point but you feel like you lost. I hope they all come back healthy and we go again. In the next game we will probably have different problems to a game like today. It is against United, full of confidence and stuff like this. We force ourselves into quite good shape and a good situation. It is really difficult.”

Klopp continued to defend his Liverpool side, saying they made “one real mistake” in the draw and believes they’ve had their tough patch of the season.

He still believes Liverpool are genuine title contenders.

“We have obviously had our hard moment. Other teams will have hard moments. It is really rare a season is going like this [makes a whooshing sound] so we need to work on our team. I really think it looks like we are not far away from a real challenger,” Klopp said. “If we do what we are good at it, and we score more goals we will win games and we don’t have to think about other teams. We will close the gap, how big it is, and we will see where we are at the end.”

Three things we learned from Newcastle v. Liverpool

Leave a comment

NEWCASTLE — Liverpool and Newcastle played out an entertaining, tight 1-1 draw at St James’ Park on Sunday as Jurgen Klopp‘s men will once again rue a defensive mistake for handing the Magpies a point.

Philippe Coutinho‘s stunner was canceled out by Joselu‘s goal as Rafael Benitez got the better of the tactical battle.

Here’s what we learned as Liverpool were frustrated by the Magpies.


SAME OLD STORY FOR LIVERPOOL

Liverpool’s defensive issues are systematic. Not in terms of how Jurgen Klopp has his defense, or his entire team set up tactically, but due to the fact his defenders continue to make elementary mistakes.

He is not asking them to do anything out of the ordinary but it is the ordinary things they continue to get wrong. Especially for Newcastle’s goal.

It was as if Jonjo Shelvey was Moses as he picked up the ball 20 yards inside his own half. With a wave of his gifted right foot he parted the Liverpool defense as Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren were caught square. The fact that it was Joselu bearing down on Simon Mignolet‘s goal will have filled the hearts of Liverpool’s fan with hopes.

The Spaniard has been wasteful but to sum up the calamitous defending from Liverpool, just as it looked like Matip had done enough to put him off the ball bounced off Joselu’s shin via a tackle from Matip and dribbled into the net.

Klopp turned to his bench in disbelief as Liverpool had, once again, shot themselves in the foot. Their ability to go from the sublime to the ridiculous in the space of minutes is as impressive as it is frustrating.

There remains only one answer for Klopp: he needs to get better defenders as soon as the January window opens. Between now and then it is likely defensive mistakes will cost his team any chance they thought they had at challenging for the Premier League title.


COUTINHO’S STUNNERS MASKS SUBDUED

The Brazilian magician was at it again. Coutinho scored his second stunner in as many Premier League games as he jinxed inside and curled home a powerful effort into the top corner to make it 1-0.

Yet apart from that he struggled to impose himself. Coutinho was asked to play out on the left hand side in the second half due to his inability to dictate the tempo of Liverpool’s attack and get on the ball.

It didn’t work. Klopp urged him to tuck inside and defend when Newcastle had the ball and although he trotted back into position, you could tell Coutinho’s heart wasn’t in it as he put his thumb up.

With Daniel Sturridge, Mohamaed Salah and Sadio Mane all missing glorious chances, Coutinho made something out of nothing but Liverpool needed more from their talismanic playmaker as their much-lauded attack again wasted opportunities and only had two efforts on target the entire game.

It’s easy to blame his failed move to Barcelona leading to a perceived lack of motivation early in the season, but Coutinho is certainly playing like a man who doesn’t care for too much other than adding to his already impressive highlight reel.


BENITEZ’S PLAN BACKED 100%

Sunday was a special day for Benitez. Facing the club he led to UEFA Champions League glory in 2005, Benitez was applauded by both sets of fans.

“Rafael’s Barmy Army” was the chant cascading down from the stands at St James’ Park for the final 15 minutes of the game as the home supporters showed their appreciation for his tactical plan and his players carrying it out to perfection.

Newcastle’s supporters went one better before the game as they unfurled a banner, which you can see below.  The general meaning of the message is that they will support him wherever they go, in spite of the lies. Reading between the lines they are quite simply backing their manager after many reported disputes with the hierarchy at Newcastle over their lack of transfer funds made available.

The home fans sung his name time and time and time again during the game and if the passionate Geordies are on your side, Benitez can push on knowing the unity he needs off the pitch is there, at least from the supporters.

With over 52,000 fans backing his team at home, Benitez will make St James’ Park a tough place to travel to all season.

His pragmatic, defensive approach got the best of his limited squad and they deserved their point against Liverpool, their second biggest test of the season so far after hosting Tottenham Hotspur back in August.

This isn’t a return to the heyday of Kevin Keegan and the entertainers era of the mid 1990s but it’s a start. After picking up 10 points in their first seven games back in the Premier League and sitting in ninth place heading into the international break, the newly-promoted side are proving they can first solidify themselves in the top-flight and then kick on.

Benitez’s clear plan is working and the Newcastle supporters are fully behind him. That much is clear. Now, he needs the board to back him and bring in three of four players with more quality, especially in the final third.