SOUTHAMPTON – Manolo Gabbiadini earned Southampton a point by scoring both goals in a 2-2 draw with Newcastle United at St Mary’s on Sunday.
Southampton were heading for a third straight league defeat when Isaac Hayden and Ayoze Perez put Newcastle ahead in each half.
But Gabbiadini hit back twice to celebrate his first start in more than a month.
Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino will hope Gabbiadini’s double prompts a return to the sort of form that saw the Italian score six goals in his first four games for Southampton last season.
Pellegrino played under Benitez at both Valencia and Liverpool, and then later joined the Spaniard’s coaching staff at Anfield.
There was nothing to separate the old friends in a hard-fought clash, with the first goal coming in the 20th minute.
Christian Atsu’s driven effort was blocked by Maya Yoshida, but with Fraser Forster already diving to his left, Hayden’s first-time shot wrong-footed the goalkeeper.
Gabbiadini whipped the equaliser through the legs of Javier Manquillo and into the bottom corner in the 49th minute.
Perez restored the Magpies’ lead two minutes later, reacting fastest to Forster saving his initial shot by squeezing in the rebound from the angle.
With 15 minutes left, Newcastle’s Florian Lejeune needlessly fouled Shane Long, and Gabbiadini drilled in the spot-kick.