Newcastle United 1-2 Saints
Saints currently have their strongest squad of first choice players since 1984, or maybe ever, but it’s not the deepest in the league. However, the Koeman brothers continue to exceed all expectations in how they cope with non-availabilities, and with Ronald having comprehensively out-thought Louis Van Gaal the previous weekend, Newcastle’s caretaker boss wasn’t going to be much of a challenge.
Crucial to the latest win was the inclusion of Eljero Elia, and the winger scored a 14th minute goal at St. James Park when he found some space on the right of the penalty area and surprised Krul with an early low shot. To be fair to the Mags, they had already provided more shots on target than our previous two opponents combined, but the goal steadied Southampton and they soon established control. The lead, though, was wiped out 15 minutes later when Gardos panicked as Forster slid out to collect a through ball, and his unnecessary clearance was diverted into an empty net when it hit Gouffran.
The manager’s tactical decisions have been phenomenally successful in recent weeks, and he made another crucial move with a double substitution of Long and Cork for Tadić and Ward-Prowse on the hour. Long’s first touch may well have been the one that set up a second opportunity for Elia, but it still required a lot of effort to find the net, which he duly did, albeit thanks to a deflection off Janmaat.
The game would have been well beyond Newcastle had Pellè’s header from Clyne’s cross not come back off the bar, so Saints had to endure a spell of pressure before the end, after United’s own double substitution improved their game. Targett was introduced for Elia late on, which was an odd move as the Dutchman’s strength under pressure seems to be a feature of his play. An impressive third win out of a string of three difficult away games was eventually secured, but not without a scare when Fonte committed a penalty area handball that could even be seen from the distance of the lofty visitors’ enclosure – referee Madley chose to ignore it, just as he had a less obvious use of hand by the home team earlier in the build-up.
LSSC Man of the Match: Eljero Elia, who contributed a lot more than just the goals, after a quiet debut at Old Trafford.