Le Tissier nullifies leaders

Southampton 1 Magilton 65 Newcastle United 0 Attendance:15,237
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The Independent Online
WHEN THE heavy pitches arrived last season Newcastle and their flowing style were capsized in a sea of mud. Their unbeaten record has gone a little early this year, submerged by the breathtaking talent of Matthew Le Tissier. He was not perpetually involved in the action yesterday. Towards the end there was a fleeting sign that Le Tissier was not so much breathtaking as out of breath but there were still a series of sublime touches, one of which was responsible for the match's only goal.

It was much simpler than some of the little tricks he usually performs. By then, in the 65th minute, he had already juggled, turned, shielded and caressed intermittently but it was his telling, beautifully paced pass into the path of Jim Magilton which mattered. Newcastle's defence was left for dead in that moment. Magilton retained his composure and comfortably beat Shaka Hislop to his right.

All eyes were on Le Tissier though and this week's talk of his international options following his mystifying rejection by Terry Venables and England. Happily for England Le Tissier is not sulking. "I am only interested in playing for England," he said after this match. "I am not interested in playing for Scotland or Wales or anyone else for that matter. I have seen myself linked with playing for France, but I don't even qualify for them. At the end of the day I am English and I am not going to go for any easy option."

Newcastle were strangely short of the brio which has so marked their start to the campaign. They had threatened much in a compelling first 15 minutes, but Southampton were equally ready in that period, even to be menacing on the break. Their methods were less sophisticated but no less effective.

Ruel Fox, in the side only because Peter Beardsley's knee injury had not improved, should have done better in the opening seconds. Les Ferdinand's looping header and Keith Gillespie's drive after working his way into the area were both saved by Dave Beasant.

However, there were two equally clear chances for Southampton. Neil Shipperley, given a yard over the Newcastle defence, missed with his shot and Le Tissier's header soon after was badly off the mark.

The match, too, tended to drift afterwards. Newcastle seemed dumbfounded by Southampton's up-and-at-'em approach and confounded by the possibility that Le Tissier might be on the end somewhere. Only David Ginola paraded his qualities with much consistency, though a brief flirtation with the right wing was ineffective for him, too.

Southampton's defence remained clinically organised. The abiding memory of the game - far more than Southampton's first win and Newcastle's first defeat - was of the man from Guernsey whose name sounds French but insists on his Englishness. His selection for the national side should perhaps be de rigueur.