This week Ralph Hasenhüttl said he likes going under the radar but that will be increasingly difficult after Southampton surged top of the Premier League, moving to the summit of the English top flight for the first time since 1988. Che Adams opened the scoring as they brushed aside Newcastle to extend their unbeaten run to six matches. Southampton, who this time last year were toiling in the relegation zone, outworked and outclassed Newcastle.
On the touchline Hasenhüttl choreographed another fine Southampton performance, cajoling his supercharged players from the first kick until the last. Newcastle, by contrast, were decidedly flat and eventually the pressure told, when Stuart Armstrong made sure of the points eight minutes from time.
Every outfield Southampton player joined the celebrations and the goalkeeper Alex McCarthy had so little to do until saving superbly from the substitute Joelinton late on, he may as well have joined the huddle.
For Southampton, the big question was how, or perhaps even whether, they would cope without Danny Ings, their talisman who is set to miss around six weeks after undergoing minor knee surgery on Thursday.
The simple answer was adeptly, with Adams rattling in on seven minutes, seconds after forcing the sprawling Karl Darlow into a smart save. Darlow repelled Adams first time around but was overwhelmed by the striker’s first-time volley moments later.
Adams finished emphatically from Theo Walcott’s crisp cross but it was the kind of the goal that had Steve Bruce tearing his hair out. Rather than clearing Newcastle’s lines, Miguel Almirón elected to try and twist and turn his way out of trouble. But, guilty of dallying on possession on the edge of the 18-yard box, Kyle Walker-Peters pressured the Newcastle midfielder and Walcott seized the ball to feed Adams.
Ings may have been their primary source of goals for the past couple of seasons but there is more substance to this Southampton team beneath the surface. They swaggered their way through a one-sided first half, with Walcott, who replaced Ings in attack, close to doubling Southampton’s advantage three minutes before the interval. Moussa Djenepo’s deft flick eliminated Fabian Schär and found Walcott, who cut inside Jamaal Lascelles, the Newcastle captain, before attempting to bend a shot into the far corner. Just before the break Adams, breathing down the neck of Schär inside the box, was penalised for a foul, which allowed Newcastle off the hook.
A few seconds after kick-off, a couple of fireworks splattered high into the sky behind the Northam End, usually home to a hardy travelling contingent. Here Newcastle played in fizzy yellow, as the kit manufacturers put it, but aside from Allan Saint-Maximin springing into life every now and then, Bruce’s side struggled to give Southampton much to think about. Newcastle were overrun in midfield, with Jeff Hendrick and Sean Longstaff swamped by the ferocity of Oriol Romeu and the tenacious Southampton…