Nine-man Newcastle held on for a thrilling 3-2 victory over Southampton in a chaotic Premier League classic at St James’ Park.
In an eventful first half, Newcastle raced into a 2-0 lead as Joe Willock slotted home on his debut (16), before Miguel Almiron’s low shot from an angle deflected off Jan Bednarek for his second own goal in the space of five days (26).
Takumi Minamino halved the deficit with a finish from an acute angle on his Saints debut (30), but Almiron capitalised on a poor Alex McCarthy kick and Ryan Bertrand mistake to score from outside the box (45+4).
The chaos did not abate in the second half – James Ward-Prowse cut Newcastle’s lead with a spectacular long-range free-kick, his fourth direct free-kick of the season (48), before Jeff Hendrick saw red for a needless second yellow card (50).
Danny Ings hit the post as Saints searched for a leveller, and after Newcastle saw Javier Manquillo and Callum Wilson hobble off injured in the first half, Fabian Schar was also forced off to add to their injury crisis and see them go down to nine men.
But Steve Bruce’s side held on for a battling victory which seemed against the odds early in the second half, and the result means Newcastle are up to 16th following their second win in three games. Saints are 12th having lost their last five Premier League games.
Newcastle had shown more attacking intent in the previous two weeks than in most of the season, while Southampton were looking to recover from a 9-0 battering at Manchester United, and, in the awful conditions at St James’ Park, goals rained down.
Allan Saint-Maximin, starting for the first time since late November, got Newcastle going, pacing down the left flank, getting into the area and cutting back for Willock to slide low into the net, the midfielder scoring on his debut having been loaned from Arsenal.
Karl Darlow then saved well with his feet from Ings’ low effort, and a minute later the hosts doubled their lead as Saint-Maximin found Almiron, whose low shot across the face of goal hit Bednarek and wrong-footed McCarthy. The defender has had a week to forget having scored an own goal at Old Trafford on Tuesday, where he also received a red card before it was rescinded.
Saints were finding space in behind as Newcastle pressed, however, and got one back through their own debutant Minamino, on loan from Liverpool, as he lashed into the roof of the net at an angle from Bertrand’s slipped pass.
Newcastle had already had to replace Manquillo early on with an ankle injury, and Wilson was added to their bulging injury list as he went off with a hamstring injury after the hour mark.
But Newcastle somehow went into the break ahead as McCarthy’s clearance was miscontrolled by Bertrand, who did not want the ball, allowing Almiron to steal in, get to the edge of the area, and shoot low into the bottom-right corner.
The conditions worsened during half-time, and the bizarre nature of the contest continued in the second period.
Newcastle should have gone 4-1 up as Jonjo Shelvey sliced wide a clear chance 10 yards out, and barely two minutes later Saints were back in the game.
Free-kick specialist Ward-Prowse found the top-right corner from 25 yards, a fantastic effort, meaning the Saints man has scored four direct free-kick goals this season, bettered only by David Beckham (2000/01) and Laurent Robert (2001/02) with five. Ward-Prowse, amazingly, has scored 44 per cent of direct free-kick goals scored in the Premier League this season (four out of nine).
The momentum swung in Saints’ favour as Hendrick was sent off for an unnecessary second yellow moments later, before Darlow kept Newcastle ahead with a point-blank save from Jannik Vestergaard’s header.
Ings then swept an effort against the post with 25 minutes remaining, Che Adams’ finish at close range was ruled out for an Ings offside, and it looked as though it was only a matter of time before Saints scored as Newcastle went down to nine with Schar injuring his knee with 15 minutes remaining.
Saints huffed and puffed for a leveller as the clock ran down, but Newcastle survived with some desperate defending, seeing out six minutes of stoppage time to claim an unlikely win.
For all the criticism Bruce and Newcastle have received this season for a lack of entertainment, this was footballing theatre. For Saints, however, five straight defeats has left their season looking decidedly average as the gap between themselves and the European spots widens.
Paul Merson on Soccer Saturday:
“Defensively Newcastle are strong but Steve Bruce set up his side to have a real go. Hendrick then gets sent off and Schar got injured so they played 40 minutes with 10 men and 15 minutes with nine – fair play to them.
“Willock had a good debut – scored a good goal, worked hard and, when they were down to 10 and nine, he kept the ball well and bought them time. They were direct, they had a go; there are goals there.
“It probably would have helped Southampton to have 10 because with nine, Newcastle had everyone within 25 yards of the goal and that’s hard to break down. It’s a massive three points for Newcastle. I think they’re safe – hopefully they can play entertaining football for the fans now.”
Newcastle now go to Chelsea on Monday Night Football on February 15, live on Sky Sports Premier League at 8pm.
Southampton go to Wolves in the FA Cup fifth round on Tuesday at 5.30pm, before hosting Wolves on Sunday February 14 at 12pm.