Digital Football Journalist @ronnabe
Newcastle 3-1 Southampton: Ayoze Perez leaves Magpies on brink of safety with fine hat-trick
Report and highlights as Mario Lemina also nets for Southampton on return from injury
Last Updated: 21/04/19 7:13am
Ayoze Perez's first Premier League hat-trick left Newcastle on the brink of safety with a 3-1 win over Southampton at St James' Park on Saturday.
Perez delivered a lesson in finishing during an end-to-end first half in the north east, making his opener himself by holding off Maya Yoshida before firing through Ryan Bertrand's legs into the far corner, and then notching from close-range from Salomon Rondon's cross.
Southampton had plenty of play in the final third but failed to register a shot on target before the break - in fact, their first effort of note was their comeback goal from half-time substitute Mario Lemina, who finished superbly from 25 yards into the far corner a quarter of an hour into the second 45.
Much of the rest of the game belonged to the visitors, but Perez sealed his hat-trick courtesy of a touch of fortune late on, diverting Matt Ritchie's header beyond Angus Gunn to secure the match ball four minutes from time.
Newcastle: Dubravka (7), Manquillo (6), Schar (7), Lascelles (7), Dummett (7), Hayden (7), Ki (7), Ritchie (7), Almiron (8), Perez (9), Rondon (8).
Subs: Atsu (7), Fernandez (6), Diame (6).
Southampton: Gunn (7), Bednarek (5), Yoshida (5), Stephens (6), Bertrand (6), Hojbjerg (5), Romeu (5), Ward-Prowse (6), Sims (5), Redmond (5), Ings (4).
Subs: Armstrong (6), Lemina (7), Long (5).
Man of the match: Ayoze Perez
A Liverpool win against Cardiff on Sunday will leave Newcastle mathematically safe in the Premier League, while Southampton still have work to do - albeit they are still five points clear of the drop.
How Newcastle continued their recent rise
Neither Newcastle nor Southampton's form particularly befit that of a side fighting relegation; and neither did the opening stages of an end-to-end encounter feel like a fight to avoid the drop, just lacking quality in the final third.
Newcastle named the exact same squad that beat Leicester last weekend.
Southampton were without Jan Valery and Jannik Vestergaard, both injured, but welcomed back Mario Lemina to the squad for the first time since December.
There was plenty of spark on the half-way line when the energetic Miguel Almiron was bundled over by James Ward-Prowse, denying what appeared a clear run on goal - and the home side were infuriated by Anthony Taylor's decision to issue only a yellow card, so much so that first-team coach Mikel Antia was sent off by the referee.
Any worries about rough justice were soon dampened when Perez provided the first moment of quality in the final third all afternoon, holding off Yoshida confidently before angling a low effort just inside the far corner and leaving Gunn with no chance.
Four minutes later, Newcastle's in-form striker grabbed his fifth goal in six games in simpler fashion following excellent hold-up play by Rondon. The forward stood up Jan Bednarek on the left flank before beating him for pace and crossing for his Spanish team-mate to dive in at the far post and double the lead.
Ralph Hasenhuttl has not been shy to shake things up, and the introduction of Lemina and Stuart Armstrong at the break bore fruit inside 15 minutes. Redmond's whipped pass from the right was laid off by the Scot to his midfield partner and Lemina, playing his first minutes in 2019 after abdominal surgery, bent the ball beyond Martin Dubravka into the far corner.
Southampton should have levelled when Yoshida was given a fine chance six yards out when Redmond recycled the ball from a corner, but he side-footed well over.
But for all the Saints' huff and puff, Newcastle continued to be the side creating most of the chances, and hit the post twice through long-range strikes from Ki Sung-Yeung and Isaac Hayden.
And they put the gloss on a win with a third goal which proved a little harsh on Southampton, when Perez was well-placed to turn Ritchie's diving header beyond an already diving Gunn in the dying minutes.
The one worry for Newcastle will be the loss of Almiron with a suspected hamstring injury in the second half, while Fabian Schar was also withdrawn.
- This was Newcastle's sixth home Premier League win of 2019 - only Man City (8) and Arsenal (7) have won more.
- Southampton have lost three of their last four away Premier League games (W1 D0 L3), having lost just one of their first four away matches under Ralph Hasenhüttl (W2 D2 L1).
- Ayoze Perez's hat-trick was Newcastle's first in the Premier League since October 2015, when Georginio Wijnaldum scored four times against Norwich City.
- Ayoze Perez has scored 10 Premier League goals this season - his best tally in a single top-flight season for Newcastle United.
- Ayoze Perez has scored seven goals in his last seven Premier League appearances at St. James' Park.
- Salomón Rondón has been involved in more Premier League goals than any other Newcastle player this season (15 - 9 goals, 6 assists).
- Southampton goalkeeper Angus Gunn conceded a Premier League hat-trick 25 years and 11 days after his father Bryan Gunn conceded one in the Premier League against Southampton in April 1994, with Matt Le Tissier scoring a treble for the Saints that day.
- Southampton have scored 12 Premier League goals from outside the box this season, a joint high along with Man City and Spurs.
Rafa Benitez: "Our level, I think, has to be between seventh and 10th and we have to compete with these teams in the transfer window, in the wage bill and everything. We need to find a balance.
"[Regarding a new deal] we have to talk because at the end, everything that will happen on June 30 has to be good for everyone. I have to decide if we sign anyone until then, so we have to talk any time."
Ralph Hasenhuttl: "Because of the first half, to be honest we didn't deserve to get something here and we must be clear that a little bit of playing football is not enough.
"If we are not aggressive and if we are not working against the ball as a team, then against such an opponent at this stadium, you don't have a chance to get something."
Man of the match - Ayoze Perez
The little Spanish dynamo has often needed to add more goals to his game, but he smashed his way into double figures for the season, the first time in his Newcastle career, with his hat-trick.
The goal that sealed it may have had more than a touch of fortune about it, but his opener was entirely self-made, and his second was a perfect striker's goal.
Those aside, he played his part as front of a front three alongside Salomon Rondon and Miguel Almiron, who caused Southampton all sorts of problems, and if he can kick on and continue this kind of form more consistently, he will be a huge asset for Rafa Benitez.
Newcastle travel to Brighton, who are still firmly involved in the relegation battle, in next Saturday's 5.30pm kick-off. Southampton host Bournemouth at St Mary's next Saturday at 3pm.