The Fabian Schar show rolled into town on a day when three points seemed vital in a home game against fellow strugglers Cardiff.
And whilst the Swiss will rightly grab so many of the headlines, the entire team put in something that would have to be a contender for performance of the season in what ended up being a comfortable 3-0 win, lifting Newcastle United above the Welsh team and out of the bottom three.
The Magpies dominated the game, pretty much from start to finish, both in terms of possession and chances. And whilst the likes of Ritchie and Rondon ran themselves into the ground there were some real moments of quality too. The first goal being the pick of them.
With Rafa’s men playing well it was just getting to the point where the classic ’we need to get a goal whilst we are on top’ line could have been used when Schar, playing as one of three centre backs, picked the ball up on about half way. What happened next would flood back memories of a certain Albert as the number 5 marauded forward. Striding past the midfield who didn’t seem to know how to stop the big man, in the blink of an eye Schar found himself in the 18 yard box with defenders standing off him. His composure then, to move the ball to his weaker left foot and pass the ball past Etheridge in the Cardiff goal was as beautiful as it was composed.
Cardiff could barely complain. They had offered nothing of real threat themselves with debutant Oumar Niasse, who joined on loan from Everton just a couple of days before the game, looking miles off the pace.
It should have been tough playing against 12 men. Yes, I’m looking at you Stuart Attwell. Yet another refereeing performance that makes you think Newcastle may be better off with VAR. Diving Cardiff players, bad tackles and a ‘stone wall’ penalty turned away even before the first goal all just infuriating. If I didn’t know better…
Not to worry. Rafa’s men just got on with it.
Two proper ball playing centre halves, with Lejeune on the other side of Lascelles was lovely to watch. It gave licence for both Yedlin and Ritchie (who looked dead on his feet by the time he was substituted with 5 minutes to go) to bomb up and down the flanks. This also seemed to free up more space for Perez and Atsu.
But it was Schar, again, who would make the game comfortable fifteen minutes into the second half. A Lascelles flick from a Ritchie corner found its way to the Swiss defender who this time just nudged the ball into the back of the net with his thigh. They all count.
Newcastle had been comfortable throughout. Composed at the back. Decent movement on the flanks and midfield. Hayden, and in particular young Longstaff, working tirelessly to close down space. Whilst up front Rondon was immense once more. His hold up play outstanding, both in terms of either setting up counter attacks or just to slow up play and recycle the ball.
In truth Cardiff never really looked like breaking a run of not winning a league game at St James Park since 1963. Only Reid, a 64th minute substitute, looked like troubling the Newcastle back line.
And any nerves that may have set in seeing 5 minutes go up for added time at the end of the game would also soon disappear as Newcastle grabbed a deserved third goal. With play stretched and Cardiff pushing players forward in desperation, a break allowed Rondon to race into the left corner of the Bluebirds box, take a couple of step overs, before crossing for Perez to tap in for the easiest of goals.
Relief in getting three points? You bet!
Deserved? Damn right!
STARTING XI: Dubravka, Yedlin, Schar, Lascelles, Lejeune, Ritchie (Manquillo, 85), Hayden, Longstaff, Perez, Atsu, Rondon