Daily Echo:

Mario Lemina’s first goal for more than a year couldn’t prevent Saints sinking to a 3-1 defeat at Newcastle with Ayoze Perez scoring a hat-trick.

Lemina was sent on as a half time sub for his first appearance of 2019 following injury and guided home a lovely strike to reduce Saints’ deficit after Perez had netted twice in an awful first half display from Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men.

Saints had chances to draw level in a far superior second half showing but were caught by a Perez sucker punch four minutes from time to seal defeat.

Hasenhuttl was forced into changes for the game with Yan Valery taken ill and Jannik Vestergaard and Alex McCarthy injured, meaning James Ward-Prowse playing at right wing back, Jack Stephens coming into the side and Fraser Forster on the bench.

But he wouldn’t have believed how poor the team would be in the first period, caught in possession time and again and often just desperately hanging on.

Newcastle had a shout for a penalty inside the first minute as Fabian Scharr’s shot from just inside the box was clearly blocked by the arms of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

However, referee Anthony Taylor clearly felt that with the Norwegian midfielder so close to his Newcastle counterpart that it could not possibly have been deliberate.

Angus Gunn had to make a first save after ten minutes as Miguel Almiron fired across goal from a tight angle and the Saints stopper dived to his left to push it away.

Saints had a rare foray forward when Danny Ings was quick to intercept a loose pass but his attempted through ball for Josh Sims wasn’t good enough and the Magpies snuffed out the danger before only a last-ditch sliding block stopped James Ward-Prowse’s shot from testing Martin Dubravka.

There was huge controversy on 23 minutes as Newcastle complained furiously that Ward-Prowse should have been sent off.

Newcastle launched a quick counter attack from inside the Saints box with Almiron suddenly charging forward with the ball, Salomon Rondon to his left and only Ward-Prowse between them and Gunn.

The Saints man produced a cynical move to deliberately block off Almiron and it seemed likely he would be sent off.

However, Taylor just booked him, leading to angry scenes which included Newcastle coach Mikel Antia being sent to the stands.

The reprieve was short lived though as Newcastle scored twice in the space of four minutes to take total control of the match.

More sloppy play from Saints on 27 minutes eventually saw Maya Yoshida’s pass to Hojbjerg intercepted and Ayoze Perez broke into the area and buried a right footed shot across goal and into the bottom corner.

The Magpies doubled their advantage four minutes later with Rondon getting away down the left and crossing to the far post where Perez slid in to beat Ryan Bertrand to the ball and was able to turn it home for 2-0.

Saints finally forced Dubravka into a save when Ings headed down and goalwards from a corner but it was a fairly routine stop.

Gunn had to come to the rescue with a couple more saves for Saints before the relief of the half time whistle that ended a dreadful first period for Hasenhuttl and his team.

Hasenhuttl had to do something at the break and duly made a double change with Stuart Armstrong and Mario Lemina replacing Sims and Jack Stephens as Saints went to 4-1-2-3 formation.

Yoshida had a chance three minutes after the restart as he had a free header from Ward-Prowse’s corner from just outside the six yard box but flicked it wide of the far post.

Newcastle so nearly bagged a third on 55 minutes as Ki Sungyueng hit a skidding right footed shot from 20 yards. His effort hit the inside of the post but stayed out.

Saints made the most of their good fortune as they halved the deficit on 59 minutes.

Lemina had already made a positive impact on the game and scored his first goal for more than a year as he produced a lovely side footed finish from just outside the area that he guided into the bottom corner.

Saints were all over Newcastle and Yoshida missed another great opportunity as Nathan Redmond’s cross found him six yards out but he put his volley over the bar.

The game very open and Gunn made an incredible save on 70 minutes as Isaac Hayden’s superb volley from 25 yards took a deflection with the keeper somehow changing direction to keep it out with his left hand.

Hasenhuttl made a final change six minutes later as Shane Long replaced Ings.

Ward-Prowse managed to head Rondon’s goalbound effort over the bar but Newcastle wrapped up the win moments later with Perez completing his hat-trick four minutes from time.

Jan Bednarek’s defensive header was sent goalwards by Matt Ritchie’s diving header in reply but before it could get there Perez changed the direction with a deft flick of his own to ensure Saints left Tyneside empty handed.