Newcastle returned to Premier League action at an empty St James’ Park with a thumping 3-0 victory over ten-man Sheffield United on Sunday afternoon.
The one person who Newcastle should hope their chances fall to – but in truth do not want their chances to fall to – is Joelinton. When he had a one-on-one at 0-0, the degree to which he fluffed it was impressive even by his standards.
He did have an important say five minutes after the break though, as he forced John Egan to haul him back when clean through on goal, prompting the defender to receive a second yellow card. Newcastle capitalised almost immediately, but were given a huge helping hand by Enda Stevens’ appalling attempt at defending, somehow nutmegging himself to allow Allan Saint-Maximin the space to fire home.
It was to get better for the Magpies, as Matt Ritchie punished some questionable Dean Henderson positioning to slam home. And then, yes, really, (REALLY) Joelinton slammed home an absolute thunderbolt from three yards to send Twitter, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and the 90min group chat into raptures.
Key Talking Point
After a leggy – as anticipated – start, Newcastle grew into proceedings spurned on by a composed midfield duo of Issac Hayden and Jonjo Shelvey. They were given a helping hand by Egan’s red card and Steven’s shambolic effort to clear, but the Magpies looked up for the fight regardless, taking on Bruce’s pre-match words with aplomb and running out deserved winners.
Which begs the question, does he get a crack at big, shiny takeover money? Granted, no such deal has taken place yet, but should it go ahead, plenty of talk is surrounding the possibility of a new boss taking the reins for what is hoped to be a new era on Tyneside.
Bruce may not be known for exciting, attacking football, nor may be known for having much in the Plan B category, but he’s guided Newcastle clear of relegation when many expected them to suffer the drop. Worth a chance?
Starting XI: Dubravka (7); Manquillo (7), Lascelles (7), Fernandez (7), Rose (6); Ritchie (7), Hayden (8), Shelvey (7), Saint-Maximin (9*); Almiron (7), Joelinton (7).
Substitutes: Bentaleb (7), Carroll (6), Schar (N/A), Lazaro (N/A), Yedlin (N/A).
Everyone’s guess for Newcastle’s best player prior to kick off was…Newcastle’s best player.
The French winger certainly falls under the ‘flair’ category, and it appeared as if he used the time off to maintain his fitness superbly. His pace hasn’t dropped, his energy neither, and he was well and by far the most dangerous asset to Steve Bruce’s side. Got the goal his performance deserved.
Key Talking Point
Having been robbed so disgracefully in their previous clash with Aston Villa, the Blades‘ hopes of securing Champions League football this season hinges on picking up three points away at the likes of Newcastle.
But what had been the backbone of their success since the start of the season had been a solid defensive structure that rarely made mistakes. You wouldn’t have thought so on Sunday.
Where has that gone? It looked for all the world like they’d be right in the mix for Champions League football before football returned, but now they’re in real risking of slipping further down the table.
It’s Manchester United up next and if they are to remain in the hunt, nothing but three points will do. They need to regroup quickly because this side is a far cry from the one we’ve all waxed lyrical about this season.
Starting XI: Henderson (4); Basham (6), Egan (4), Robinson (6); Baldock (6*), Berge (5), Norwood (6), Fleck (6), Stevens (4); McBurnie (4), Sharp (5).
Substitutes: Lundstram (5), Freeman (4), Zinkovic (5), K. Freeman (N/A).
This was a quite woeful Blades performance, as it appeared as if the break stunted their fine run rather than refreshing the batteries.
But one player whose performances haven’t dropped is George Baldock, who was as industrious as ever in his right wing-back slot, providing the overloads in attack and offering some dangerous deliveries. But that’s about it.
It’s back on home soil for Newcastle as they host relegation-threatened Aston Villa on Wednesday, while Sheffield United are still in the European hunt when they travel to Old Trafford on the same day.