Ayoze Perez
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - APRIL 20: Ayoze Perez of Newcastle United (17) poses with the Match Ball after scoring a hat-trick during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Southampton FC at St. James Park on April 20, 2019 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. (Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United)

A clinical hat-trick from an in-form Ayoze Perez against Southampton has effectively guaranteed survival for Newcastle United.

This crucial victory sends the Magpies ten points clear of Cardiff City, who will require nothing short of a miracle to catch them.

Newcastle Safe As Perez Hat-Trick Downs Southampton

Perez The Poacher

Despite a nervy second half, Ayoze Perez completed a classy hat-trick to help his side past Southampton.

With six goals in six games, the Spaniard continued his rich vein of form against a lacklustre, non-combative Southampton side.

His first two goals came within four minutes of each other and were a product of the Saints’ sluggishness. In both cases, Ralph Hassenhuttl’s side were the architects of their own destruction as they were caught in possession far too easily.

Firstly by Isaac Hayden and then by Salomon Rondon, the diminutive Spaniard was slipped in and finished off the move in style. Despite Mario Lemina pegging one bag, he then added an instinctive headed finish to put the game beyond all doubt.

This marks Perez’s eight, ninth and tenth goals of the season, which makes it his most prolific in a single Premier League campaign.

Somnambulant Saints

Ralph Hasenhuttl has enjoyed a fantastic tenure at St. Mary’s so far, as Southampton have marched away from the relegation zone in recent weeks. On Saturday evening, however, his side were not at the races for the majority of the game.

They played as though they were already safe yet, in reality, their Premier League status is still precarious. As is expected at this level, Southampton’s listlessness was punished and they looked beaten going into the break.

Hassenhuttl was forced into a double substitution and a drastic tactical substitution following his side’s terrible first-half performance. He switched to four at the back and the introduction of Mario Lemina immediately paid dividends.

The Gabonese international curled in a fine finish just before the hour mark, which foreshadowed a double-blow for Newcastle United as Miguel Almiron and Fabian Schar were withdrawn due to injury.

The momentum had swung in Southampton‘s favour and the Newcastle fans were fearful of throwing away their comfortable lead. Perez added a timely third, however, which secured his hat-trick and subsequently sees his side surpass the highly coveted 40-point mark.

Southampton, meanwhile, will now be looking over their shoulder nervously at Cardiff City and won’t want their hard-work not to be undone. It will, though, if they exhibit the same sluggishness going forward.

Rafa Benitez: Miracle Worker

For the second consecutive season, Rafael Benitez has secured survival for Newcastle United in the Premier League.

With the limited resources available to him, he continually manages to find a winning formula. With 41 points after 35 games, his side could yet out-do last years achievement of 44.

At the end of the match, his name rang around St. James Park, which demonstrated just how highly-regarded he is by their fans. His contract, however, expires at of the season and Newcastle fans will be desperate for the Spaniard to stay.

Benitez refused to give much away about his future post-match and concentrated on the near future. He asserted that “we are not competing” and hinted how he wants to lead a more ambitious project if he were to stay.

If Liverpool win against Cardiff City on Sunday, then the Magpies are mathematically safe. Additionally, if Newcastle win against Brighton and Fulham then an unthinkable eleventh-place finish could be on the cards.

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