Newcastle United 1-0 Chelsea
WOW. Newcastle survived a second half onslaught to score a 94th minute winner through a Isaac Hayden header at St James Park this evening.
A dominant Chelsea side just couldn’t find a way passed a stubborn black and white back line, and on the rare occasion they did so, Dubravka was his usual competent self.
But with the game looking for all the world like it would end 0-0, Joelinton managed to force a corner deep into injury time. And with Matt Ritchie’s corner being easily cleared it allowed Saint-Maximin to sweep in a second ball from the Newcastle left, met by the head of Hayden who did everything right by heading the ball into the ground and through the fingers of Arrizabalaga to win it for United. Queue unbridled joy from everyone in black and white.
Starting just 4 points above the relegation zone the incentive looking the other way was a place just a point off the top half of the table and parity with the likes of Everton and Arsenal.
After some disappointing performances at home of late, this may not have been the most pleasing on the eye, but the points will likely prove vital. It is possible that a few as 3 more wins this season will be enough to secure Premier League football on Tyneside again next season. Crazy stuff.
STARTING XI: Dubravka, Krafth (S Longstaff, 70), Fernandez, Clarke, Lascelles, Willems (Ritchie, 12), Hayden, Shelvey (M Longstaff, 85), Saint-Maximin, Almiron, Joelinton
There was welcome news before kick off with Allan Saint-Maximin making to a starting lineup that looked as strong as possible with the continued absence of so many from the United squad.
It didn’t take long for Newcastle’s injury curse to hit once more, Willems the latest to be literally carried to the treatment table which what looked like a pretty bad hamstring injury.
Chelsea had already started the brighter of the two sides with United adopting the usual ‘sit deep’ approach and hoping to hit the visitors on the break.
The first big chance of the game would go to Newcastle, and but for a lick of paint the home side would have been ahead. A handing cross from Krafth met brilliantly by Joelinton only for the big striker see his header come crashing back off the crossbar with Arrizabalaga beaten all ends up. Really unlucky not to score.
Joelinton looking a different player in the early exchanges, winning every aerial duel and looking a real handful up front. Perhaps rejuvenated after breaking his St James Park duck last time out against Rochdale.
Dubravka would be called upon to make his first big save of the game on 33 minutes when Kante was played through only to find the United stopper in great form from a tight angle.
There would be little action to speak of for the remainder of the first half with the teams going in 0-0 at the break.
The second half started much the same as the first, Newcastle well organised and frustrating the visitors and only rarely offering anything at the other end.
But as the half wore it was Chelsea that started to turn the screw and it was starting to look like only a matter of time before they would cut out the wastefulness in the final third and find a way to seriously test Dubravka. One way traffic!
On 72 minutes a mix up at the back after a mishit pass allowed Abraham to sneak through one on one with Dubravka, but the United stopper stood tall, forcing the striker to fire well side from a tight angle.
Next is was Ritchie to the rescue as Abraham tried to flick the ball past Dubravka, but the big man managed to get enough of a finger on the ball to slow the ball’s seemingly inevitable bounce over the goal line. That, giving enough time for Ritchie to get back and clear off the line.
With a couple of minutes left there was to be one more half chance for the home side. Some neat play on the left allowed Hayden, now playing right wing back, to find some room on the right and whip a cross into the box. But Saint-Maximin’s pull back was met by a rash swing of Joelinton’s left peg with he ball flying fully 6 yards wide from not much further out than that.
And that, it seemed, would be that.
Credit first Joelinton for forcing a late corner. And then, after a poor corner from Ritchie, Saint-Maximin for a cracking ball to the back stick and right onto the head of Isaac Hayden. And Isaac did the rest. A cracking, professional, downward header gave the Chelsea keeper no chance and gave Newcastle United all three points in the 94th minute.