Southampton were unable to produce the response they had hoped for to the horror of their 9-0 defeat at Manchester United, as they lost a dramatic encounter at St James’ Park to Newcastle United.
Saints let a big opportunity slip in the north east, having played against a Magpies side that went down to ten men early in the second half, following Jeff Hendrick’s sending off, when the score was 3-2, before then being reduced to nine with more than ten minutes on the clock after an injury to Fabian Schär.
However, despite the additional numbers, Ralph Hasenhüttl's side could not recover, as they suffered a fifth Premier League defeat in succession.
The game had started badly, with early goals from Joe Willock and Miguel Almiron putting Steve Bruce’s team 2-0 up and, although Takumi Minamino scored a marvellous effort to quickly cut it to 2-1, Saints gifted Almiron another right at the end of the first half.
But the second half began in far better fashion, as James Ward-Prowse scored an incredible free-kick to make it 3-2, before Newcastle’s numbers began to deplete.
Saints could not take advantage, though, and their mood at the final whistle would have closely matched the grim weather in Newcastle.
Hasenhüttl had been hopeful of welcoming back at least some of his sidelined senior players for this fixture and, while he certainly had far from a full squad to choose from, his options were undoubtedly greater than they had been earlier in the week.
Back in came Jannik Vestergaard for his first appearance since Christmas, as he made his return from a knee injury to once again partner Jan Bednarek – also available after his red card against Manchester United was overturned – in the heart of defence.
Kyle Walker-Peters did not make it into the matchday squad, however, needing slightly longer before being ready to play again, meaning Jack Stephens started at right-back.
In midfield, Oriol Romeu was fit again, as he partnered Ward-Prowse, while Minamino was thrown straight into the starting XI, taking up a position on the left side, following his loan move from Liverpool on transfer deadline day. Nathan Redmond, Ché Adams and Danny Ings completed the attacking line-up.
Saints controlled possession well in the opening minutes, with their best moment coming when Redmond won the ball on the edge of the Newcastle area and nearly slipped in Minamino with a clever pass.
But hearts were in mouths at the other end on eight minutes, when Jonjo Shelvey’s cutting pass from the halfway line put Callum Wilson clean through. The former Bournemouth striker duly raced through and finished past Alex McCarthy, but was correctly flagged offside.
Unfortunately, there was nothing wrong with Newcastle’s move in the 16th minute.
Allan Saint-Maximin beat Bednarek to a long ball out of defence down the left, chesting it forward and bursting into the area before looking up and squaring for Willock in a central position to side-foot home on his debut for the Magpies, following his loan move switch from Arsenal earlier in the week.
Saints needed a response, and they so nearly got it on 24 minutes, as a smart move saw Redmond find Adams inside on the right, with the forward then slipping in his strike partner Ings, but he couldn’t beat Karl Darlow from an angled position, as the Newcastle keeper’s right foot made contact with the shot and diverted it clear.
The hosts then lost Javier Manquillo to injury, with Emil Krafth replacing him at right-back, before Ings immediately had another great opportunity to level.
Bednarek picked out Bertrand down the left with a wonderful diagonal ball, with the full-back hitting a first time cross as the pass dropped to him. His delivery flicked off a Newcastle head and looped into the path of Ings in the middle, but he could only head straight at Darlow.
Having spurned two good chances to equalise, Saints then fell two behind moments later.
Saint-Maximin got onto a low, cross-field pass down the left, before laying the ball back to Almiron inside the corner of the area. He took a touch to move it forward, before firing in a low strike that deflected off the unfortunate Bednarek and past McCarthy at the near post, adding to what had already been a pretty cruel week on the centre-back, who also suffered an own goal at Manchester United.
Saints were now in urgent need of a response, and that indeed arrived only three minutes later as Minamino marked his debut with a wonderful goal.
Bertrand’s pass into feet found him 20 yards out, and the Japan international produced a stunning first touch and burst of pace to put him free down the inside-left before lashing a glorious shot into the roof of the net at the near post.
The hosts were then forced into another change, as Wilson had to depart the action with an injury, with Joelinton replacing him.
Saints suddenly had some momentum with them, and they could have squared things up in the final minute of the half. Minamino won a free-kick near the byline down the left, with a clever routine seeing Ward-Prowse find Bertrand unmarked on the edge of the area, but he got underneath it and fired well over.
It felt as though an equaliser could be coming for Saints before the break, but they ended up going in two behind after gifting Newcastle a goal in the fourth and final minute of added time.
After the ball was played back to McCarthy, he passed it out to Bertrand on the left. However, the Saints keeper hit it a little further in front of his teammate than he would have intended and, although Bertrand got there first, he was closed down by Almiron as he attempted to knock it past him. That allowed a clear run on goal for the Paraguayan midfielder, and he set himself on the edge of the area before drilling a low left shot into the bottom near corner.
Newcastle really should have then made it 4-1 within a minute of the second half starting, as Willock got into a good position in the area and cut it back for Shelvey in a great position, but he made a complete mess of his left-footed shot and skewed it well wide.
Two minutes later and he would have really been regretting that.
Isaac Hayden fouled Adams more than 25 yards out, but the distance didn’t matter as Ward-Prowse hit an unbelievable free-kick that whipped over the wall and flew right into the top corner, past the reach of a full-stretch Darlow, who had no chance with it. Even by the Southampton captain’s phenomenal standards, this was quite a strike.
Things then got even better for Saints on 50 minutes, as they were given a man advantage – Hendrick receiving a second yellow for pulling back Minamino, having been cautioned early in the game for another foul on the Japan international.
An equaliser almost then arrived on 54 minutes, as a Ward-Prowse corner to the back post was met by the rising Vestergaard, but his header was parried away well by Darlow.
Saints were then inches from clawing level on 63 minutes, as Redmond pulled the ball back to Ings in space in the area, with his shot across goal beating Darlow, only to hit the inside of the post and somehow bounce straight back to the Newcastle keeper.
They then had the ball in the net moments later, as Redmond’s shot from 18 yards deflected through and into the path of Ings, who was denied by Darlow, with Adams finishing the rebound, but Ings was offside as the ball came to him.
It was all Saints, but time was also running out by this point as the game ticked into the final 20 minutes. The pitch had also taken a battering by this stage under torrential rain, with going heavy on the sodden surface for both sides.
There was then a major setback for Newcastle as, having already made all of their substitutions, they lost Fabian Schär to what looked like a serious injury, meaning they had to play the last 12 minutes plus added time with only nine men.
The Magpies’ misfortune provided a huge opportunity for Saints, though, who now had a two-man advantage. As a result, Hasenhüttl quickly removed a defender, replacing Stephens with Dan Nlundulu.
But they were struggling to find a way through and, as the game entered six minutes of added time, the score remained 3-2. There it would remain, too, as Saints were unable to find the equaliser.