Southampton were forced to settle for a second goalless draw in succession, as they were held at St Mary’s by Newcastle despite dominating for so much of the afternoon.
After the stalemate at Bournemouth a week previously, Saints returned home hoping for more, but they were unable to convert their stranglehold on the game into three points, as Rafa Benitez’s side held firm. It leaves Mark Hughes’s side, who registered more than 20 shots during the game, still searching for a first home win of the campaign, with a trip to Manchester City up next in the Premier League.
Hughes was forced into one change before the match, with midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg falling ill ahead of the game, meaning Oriol Romeu came into the starting line-up in his place.
Saints started the game encouragingly, and had a golden opportunity to open the scoring inside three minutes. A bouncing ball fell into the path of Ryan Bertrand 25 yards out, and, although he dragged his effort, it was perfectly placed to find Mohamed Elyounoussi in behind the defence. Elyounoussi, who controlled the ball well, perhaps could have squared for Charlie Austin, but opted for the shot, with Martin Dubravka producing a fine save from his clipped effort.
It was not long before the Newcastle keeper was called into action again, as Austin controlled a clearance from the visitors just outside the area and sent a low, angled strike towards the near post, which the Slovakian got down well to save.
Saints threatened again just before the midway point of the half, as a slick move down the left, highlighted by a beautiful Austin flick, set an attack in motion that ended with Danny Ings feeding a pass down the inside-right for Nathan Redmond, who fired just over from 18 yards.
Newcastle had offered little in attack during the opening exchanges, but they did carve out an opportunity on the half-hour mark, as Kenedy cut onto his right foot inside the area, only to see his strike blocked superbly by Cedric, who threw himself in the way.
It was Saints who were then back on the front foot, coming within inches of the lead in the 40th minute. Redmond released Bertrand down the left, and his low ball to the near-post area was met by a flick of Mario Lemina’s boot, only for his clever effort to strike the base of the upright and go wide.
As the game wore on into added time, Hughes’s men continued to press, with Elyounoussi cutting onto his right foot on the edge of the box and curling a shot just wide of the far post, before Dubravka clawed a Jack Stephens header off the line from Bertrand’s corner, but they went into the break without reward to show for their efforts.
The second half began in a similar vein to the first, with Southampton looking the more likely, and they did get the ball into the net in the 55th minute, only for Austin to be penalised for a foul on Dubravka, as they both challenged for a high ball before the Saints striker swept into an empty net in the aftermath.
The hosts were by now upping the pressure, and they carved out another decent opportunity four minutes later, as Cedric found Ings in space inside the box, only for his strike to be superbly blocked by Federico Fernandez.
It was a similar story five minutes later, as Elyounoussi’s low ball from the left fell to Redmond at the back post, but his well-struck effort slammed into Paul Dummett, who had thrown himself in between the strike and the goal.
Saints’ desire for the three points was evident, with centre-half Stephens pushing forward and getting on the end of an Ings cross with just over ten minutes remaining, before Lemina fizzed a strike from distance narrowly over the bar.
They went so close in the 89th minute, as substitute Gabbiadini spun brilliantly, before playing Cedric down the right channel, with the full-back picking out Long in space, only for his low shot across goal to graze the outside of the post.
It summed up much of the afternoon – so near, yet not near enough.