Southampton boss Mauricio Pellegrino accused some of his players of giving up as they slumped deep into relegation trouble after a 3-0 Premier League defeat at Newcastle. The Saints fell behind after just 63 seconds at St James’ Park and never looked like getting themselves back into a game which left them just a point clear of the drop zone after only one win in their last 17 in the league. Pellegrino said: “When you concede in the first minute and little by little you feel that the game will be tough, every single negative impact is massive for you.
“I observed some players who gave up and we cannot show this, to be honest. When you are losing 2-0, you have to try, and I think we tried to be in the game, to score one, but we were never a threat for Newcastle. “The spirit of the team and the attitude is everything. We have been talking about this a lot of time from the beginning. You can have good players, you can have a budget, but without personality and spirit, it’s really difficult to compete at this level.” It was the Magpies’ loan signing Kenedy who gave the home side a dream start when he fired past keeper Alex McCarthy after controlling Jonjo Shelvey’s pass on his chest, and his first goal for the club was followed by his second when he rounded off a lighting 29th-minute counter-attack.
Matt Ritchie made sure of the points to ease Newcastle five points clear of the bottom three in 13th place with a third 12 minutes into the second half. Although the visitors rallied thereafter, they were rarely able to trouble keeper Martin Dubravka. Pellegrino said: “You can lose, you can play badly, but you have to show another face on the pitch. For this reason, I would like to say sorry to our fans because we couldn’t represent our club properly. This is the worst thing that we did today.” Opposite number Rafael Benitez was delighted with the way his side killed off the game a fortnight after allowing a 2-0 lead to slip at Bournemouth. Benitez, who will take his players off to Spain for a training camp next week with no fixture until Huddersfield arrive at St James’ Park on March 31, said: “We needed to start with intensity and we did it.
“We scored the goal and after, we were pushing, we were aggressive, we scored a second goal. “After the game against Bournemouth, we said, ‘We have to kill the game, we need to score the third goal,’ so everything was perfect because the commitment of the players and the work-rate was fantastic, and also the way that we were playing.” In particular, Benitez praised January signing Kenedy, adding: “With him, any situation is good for me when you see a player with quality using his quality to make a difference.”