SOUTHAMPTON, England (Reuters) – Ralph Hasenhuttl described his Southampton side’s form as scary after a 2-0 win over Newcastle United put the south-coast club top of the Premier League for the first time ever on Friday.
An early volley by Che Adams and a late strike by Stuart Armstrong hardly did justice to a vibrant Saints display as they bagged their fifth league win of the season.
Despite losing their opening two games, Southampton have 16 points from eight matches and are above champions Liverpool on goal difference. They will stay there until Sunday at least if Everton fail to beat visitors Manchester United on Saturday.
“Amazing what my team does at the moment,” the Austrian coach, who has transformed Southampton in the past 12 months after a 9-0 home defeat by Leicester City, told Sky Sports.
“We maybe could have scored a few more today but the rest was nearly perfect. Good game management and everyone was on the highest level. It’s a bit scary what we’re doing at the moment but not so surprising as I see them working.”
The performance was all the more impressive as leading striker Danny Ings was out having undergone knee surgery.
But in Theo Walcott, playing his first home game after returning to his boyhood club on loan from Everton, Adams and Armstrong, Southampton looked potent in attack.
Captain James Ward-Prowse pulled the strings in midfield while former Chelsea player Oriol Romeu was dangerous and only denied a goal by the woodwork.
“Che is amazing in the box. I think it was important to show that even without Danny we have the quality to score,” Hasenhuttl said. “Theo’s workload was amazing too.”
Southampton are reaping the rewards for refusing to panic after the debacle against Leicester and from a side that for much of last season looked to be heading for relegation they now appear capable of challenging for a European spot.
“We’ve invested so much in this time together,” Hasenhuttl said. “We have made big steps forward and this is not a coincidence. With the ball and without the ball, we are very brave. Maybe playing without fans has helped us because there is a lack of stress. Now we are playing a complete game.”
Steve Bruce’s Newcastle side had also started the season reasonably well and could have gone into the top five with a win but they were ineffective at St Mary’s.
“The goals we gave away probably summed up our evening. We gave it away far too cheaply and far too often,” he said. “The best team won. We didn’t do enough against a very good Southampton team.”