SOUTHAMPTON, England (Reuters) - Southampton moved into first place in England’s top flight for the first time since 1988 after a comfortable 2-0 home victory over Newcastle United in the Premier League on Friday.
Che Adams volleyed the hosts into a seventh-minute lead and the only surprise was that it took them until the 82nd minute to double their advantage as Stuart Armstrong fired into the net.
The margin of the defeat flattered Newcastle who offered next to nothing as an attacking force.
Southampton’s fifth league win of the season, having lost their opening two games, moved them to 16 points from eight games and above champions Liverpool on goal difference.
Newcastle are in 11th spot on 11 points.
This time last year Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl’s job looked on the line after a 9-0 thrashing at St Mary’s by Leicester City -- a record away win in the English top flight.
But the transformation with virtually the same squad has been outstanding and Southampton do not look out place on top of the Premier League for the first time.
They were without leading scorer Danny Ings, who underwent knee surgery after being injured in last week’s win over Aston Villa, but it did not blunt their attacking threat.
Southampton swarmed all over Newcastle from the start and it took them only seven minutes to open the scoring.
Adams forced a flying save from Karl Darlow but the visitors failed to clear the danger and when Miguel Almiron lost possession to Theo Walcott, the former England forward teed up Adams to crash an unstoppable volley into the net.
Walcott, on a season-long loan from Everton, was at the heart of Southampton’s best moments and was inches away from doubling his side’s lead moments before halftime when his curling effort flew just wide of the post.
It was a perfect night for the 31-year-old who was playing his first home game for Southampton since leaving the south coast club to join Arsenal as a teenager in 2006.
Southampton’s relentless pressing game hounded Newcastle into errors and the hosts twice went close within a minute after halftime. Jan Bednarek’s effort got cleared off the line and then Oriol Romeu’s shot was touched onto the bar by Darlow.
Walcott could have had a penalty before Armstrong wrapped up the points with a low finish.
“It’s a fantastic achievement and honour to be part of it, this is where it all started for me,” Walcott told Sky Sports.
“We work hard for each other and we are there because of our performances. It was a worry at 1-0 because we had dominated so much. But Stuart getting the goal was much deserved.
“I’ve got some great memories here but I want to make some new ones.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris
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