Newcastle went into today’s game away to Swansea knowing victory would see them just 4 points off top with a home game against Stoke to come next. Lose and they could be in the relegation zone following MNF (albeit unlikely due to goal difference).
Swansea, for their part, would hand a first start to Sanches after his loan move from Bayern whilst Bony would only make the bench on his return to the Liberty Stadium.
For Newcastle there would be a surprise in their starting eleven with Jacob Murphy coming in for Atsu on the flank. And whilst it was known Mbemba would be out today at left back, perhaps a surprise too that it was Gamez to made the team rather than a fit again Yedlin who had to be content with a start on the bench.
STARTING XI: Elliot, Gamez, Clark, Lascelles, Manquillo, Murphy (Atsu, 59), Hayden (Diame, 69), Merino, Ritchie, Perez, Joselu (Gayle, 78)
Newcastle had confirmed before the game that Rafa Benitez would not be at the ground, instead he would watch the game on Sky as he recovers from a groin op, keeping in contact with his staff via phone during the game. Not ideal given how active we know the boss is on the sidelines.
Plenty of airtime for Tammy Abrahams before kick off after his choice to join the Swans rather than the Magpies during the summer.
Both teams would make a quick start to the game which would include a snap shot from Hayden who found himself with the ball at his feet in the box but the effort would go straight into the arms of Fabianski.
Whilst Renato Sanches would have an ‘interesting first ten minutes, making a couple of poor passes before being taken out by Hayden on the edge of his own box. The Newcastle number 14 receiving a yellow for his actions.
Unlike in the West Ham game Newcastle seemed under clear instructions to drop off and let Swansea have the ball in their own half in a clear change of tactics for the Mags. The result would be long spells of possession for the home side with the visitors seemingly happy to hit them on the break.
On 26 minutes the first clear sight of goal for either side when a long ball from Ritchie from inside his own half would skim off the head of a Swansea centre half and loop into the air towards Murphy. The Newcastle man couldn’t find his balance or get any real purchase on his shot however and the ball would loop over the Swansea bar. A couple of moments later and a long throw would fall nicely for Joselu but his effort, over his shoulder, from fully 25 yards wouldn’t trouble the keeper either.
With just over 30 minutes gone Ritchie, then Joselu, and then Fabianski would produce the moment of the match so far. Ritchie with the cross. Joselu with a fabulous header which was creeping into the corner. Only to see Fabianski tip wide with the slightest of touches. What a save!
Perhaps reminiscent of the save from Ritchie in the game at Huddersfield. Would it be just as important?
Next Swansea would have a chance. The ball even away by Hayden would see Elliot tip wide before then Mawson missing with a free header from the resulting corner. It should be 1-1. But 0-0 it remained.
With moments left Hayden’s side foot from 30 yards would again only hit the midriff of the keeper and with that the half time whilst.
A huge call for the ref at the start of the second half as in an incident, so similar to that of Mane on the City keeper yesterday, Ritchie would go into a challenge with his foot well above shoulder height and seemingly catch Mawson in the face. Unlike yesterday there would be no real damage done and to his credit Mawson would stay on his feet despite being nicked on his face. That would seem to make the refs mind up only to give a yellow when it could easily have been worse of the Magpies number 11.
Another huge moment with just under an hour gone. Finally Swansea would breach the Newcastle back line. Abrahams this time set totally clear with only the keeper to beat. And the Swans player would drift effortlessly around Elliot to seemingly tap home but as his shot was sent towards the empty net back would slide Captain Lascelles to force the ball wide of the post. As good as a goal, as they say!
The game was now starting to be stretched at both ends with Swansea shading the possession but Newcastle shading the number of chance both on and off target.
With the clock ticking into the last 20 minutes Newcastle work the ball well to set free but his shot was driven straight at the keeper again, this time saving with his legs.
Joselu would have a header and a shot saved, both pretty tame efforts, to be fair as Newcastle tried to asset themselves in the final quarter of an hour.
Atsu forces and corner. Ritchie whips it in. and LASCELLES……..
1-0 Newcastle United
Could Newcastle now hand on for the 14 minutes plus injury time that would see the black and whites give Rafa the best kind of get well gift possible.
And, but for one good save by Elliot towards the end the Magpies did indeed see the game out.
Three points in the bag and Newcastle up to 10th in the table.