Soccer

Ralph Hasenhuttl says Southampton rise is 'scary but not surprising'

Ralph Hasenhuttl heaped praise on his players after Southampton moved top of the Premier League, but admits his side’s rise has not come as a surprise to him.

Saints moved top of the Premier League for the first time in their history after beating Newcastle 2-0 at St Mary’s on Friday night. A seventh-minute strike from Che Adams gave the home side an early lead and they wrapped up victory in the 82nd minute through Stuart Armstrong.

A year ago, Southampton sat in the bottom three of the Premier League, but the Austrian believes his side are now showing their development and the fruits of their investment both away from the pitch and on the training ground, away from the pressure of playing in front of supporters.

“It’s amazing what my team does in the moment,” he told Sky Sports. “Congratulations to everybody around the pitch and the team. Amazing. We could maybe have scored more but the rest was perfect. Everybody was on the highest level. It is a little scary what we are doing at the moment to be honest but not surprising when I see what we are working on.

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“We could have closed the game, earlier – that was definitely possible. The way we played through lines was fantastic to watch. We can then make the last pass and final decision even better but this is criticism on a high level. We know it’s not so easy to create a lot of chances against these teams.

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“We’re a strong side and this is not a coincidence as we’ve developed every part of our game. Our game management has been very brave and I feel it has helped us in some situations where there’s no crowd in the stadium so we can develop our game. There’s not so much stress now, and we’ve got used to it. As a result, we’ve now got a more complete game.”

Hasenhuttl’s men dominated possession and chances as they sealed a comfortable win that saw them replace Liverpool at the top of the table ahead of this weekend’s fixtures.

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The Saints last stood at the summit of English football 32 years ago under the management of Chris Nicholl and it marks a remarkable 12 months for the Austrian manager since their 9-0 thrashing by Leicester last October.

Hasenhuttl added: “I’m happy for the fans that we’re top of the league at the moment, but the season is very long. We have a very intense period over Christmas but the squad is nicely balanced. We’ve restructured a few things and this now shows that the players are stepping up.

“It’s the first time that we’ve had three wins in a row and this was the goal for today. It’s the first time that we’ve taken three points over Newcastle as the last three times we’d lost. We’re top for now, but it’s only for a few moments. Of course, it’s nice for the fans and the players. For me, it’s important that we stay hungry and don’t lean back.”

Inconsistency frustrates Bruce

Newcastle, who had yet to be beaten away from home in the Premier League this season and headed into the game on the south coast in good form, having beaten Everton 2-1 in their previous fixture, but often lacked control and managed just four shots during the game.

“Certainly, the best team won,” Newcastle boss Steve Bruce told Sky Sports. “We didn’t get anywhere near where we were five days ago. We didn’t look after the ball well enough and we gifted them two goals. We didn’t do enough to win the game. We didn’t handle the full press and it was a difficult night.

“The one thing you can’t do at this level is give them the goals we did. We gave the ball away far too often. We knew what to expect from them – the full press – and unfortunately we couldn’t play through it.

“The first 15 minutes was probably our worst spell after half-time. We couldn’t get out. We kept giving the ball back to them and when you’re in that situation it becomes difficult for. Congratulations to Southampton on the night. They were far better than us and we couldn’t cope with them.

“We go up and down too quick. That’s one thing we have to resolve. We go along nicely then all of a sudden we don’t play well enough in the game. It nags me.”

What’s next?

Southampton travel to face Wolves on Saturday November 21 after the international break; kick-off 3pm.

Newcastle will host Chelsea at St James’ Park at 12.30pm on the same day.

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