Newcastle United lurched a step closer to relegation from the Premier League with their ninth consecutive away defeat, a 3-1 loss at Southampton on Saturday.
Rafael Benitez’s men travelled to St Mary’s Stadium in desperate need of a result after last weekend’s dramatic 3-2 reverse at Norwich City left them six points adrift of safety.
But the league’s second-bottom side produced another substandard performance on their travels as Southampton eased to a routine win that keeps Ronald Koeman’s side firmly in European contention.
It took Southampton only four minutes to open the scoring as Shane Long was allowed the space to break into the area and find the net with a confident low finish.
Newcastle never threatened an equaliser and, after clinging on for much of the first half, fell 2-0 behind when Graziano Pelle bent an effort into the bottom-right corner.
And a comfortable victory was wrapped up 10 minutes into the second half courtesy of Victor Wanyama’s first goal of the season, leaving Newcastle with six games to overhaul the six-point gap to Norwich despite a fine consolation from Andros Townsend.
Long needed less than five minutes to break the deadlock, picking up the ball in midfield and waltzing into the Newcastle box before slotting into the bottom-left corner.
Southampton dominated play for almost all of the first half but struggled to really test Karl Darlow despite Newcastle affording the hosts plenty of opportunity to do so.
But Koeman’s men were not left to rue their profligacy as Pelle capitalised on more poor Newcastle defending with a curling low effort in the 38th minute.
Daryl Janmaat’s slip allowed Wanyama to collect Sadio Mane’s pass and break down the left and cross, with Long teeing up Pelle – who had the time to recover his composure after falling over – to pick his spot and give Newcastle a mountain to climb.
Janmaat then limped off through injury to be replaced by Siem de Jong as another miserable half ended with more problems for Benitez.
Steven Taylor was taken off after half-time with Jamaal Lascelles coming on in his place, but the change failed to prevent Southampton from extending their lead as Newcastle were punished for falling asleep at a set-piece.
Slack marking allowed Mane to steal a march from a short corner, with Wanyama firing in the rebound after Jose Fonte’s effort from the Senegal international’s low delivery had been blocked by Darlow.
Ayoze Perez and Townsend finally forced former Newcastle goalkeeper Fraser Forster into action before the latter cut in from the right and found the top-left corner with a fierce 65th-minute strike that ultimately mattered little.
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