A day and a comeback to remember on Tyneside as Newcastle United ultimately ran out victorious on an action packed afternoon at St James Park.
A brace from Ayoze Perez and a classy opener from Rondon giving the Magpies a 3-2 win after trailing the Toffee Men 2-0 at the interval only begins to tell the story of this one on a day of missed penalties, offside goals and comedy antics from ex-Mackem goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
What a comeback.
What a day.
STARTING XI: Dubravka, Yedlin, Schar, Lascelles (Dummett, 45), Lejeune, Ritchie (Kenedy, 73), Hayden, Ki (Shelvey, 79), Perez, Almirón, Rondon
Everton had come out of the blocks quickly in front of an initially subdued St James Park sell out. And it didn’t take long for the visitors to make their early pressure count when a hurried clearance from Ritchie was recycled down the Newcastle right allowing Lucas Digne to place a delicious cross onto the forehead of Dominic Clavert-Lewin who did well to glance the ball past the sprawling Dubravka.
The lead was no more than Everton deserved and it would take a couple of crazy minutes on the half hour mark to stir the Magpies and the thousands clad in black and white into a frenzy and lift themselves.
Firstly Everton should have been down to 10 men on 29 minutes. Pantomime… no… scrub that… actual villain Jordan Pickford dropped a cross from the Newcastle left into the path on the onrushing Rondon. And with the Newcastle striker well placed to tap home, the ex-Mackem stopper took matters into his own hands and quite literally rugby tackled Rondon to the ground.
The clear penalty was of course awarded by Lee Mason. Inexplicably however, there was no card. Now given the incident was right in front of the referees assistant and with Mason well placed to see that the ball was several meters from Pickford when he fouled the Newcastle man it had to be a straight red. A crazy, crazy decision that provoked anger from the Newcastle fans, players and coaching staff alike.
To make matters worse Pickford then saved the Matt Ritchie penalty.
And, wouldn’t you just know it, two minutes later it was 2-0 to Everton. This time a cross from the Everton right was palmed straight into the path of the talented Richarlison who made no mistake from 6 yards out to side foot home the easiest of chances.
The sense of injustice was palpable, and it would carry through to the second half.
After the game Rafa Benitez said he’d told his players to just keep going and not to concede another knowing that a goal for his side might just swing the pendulum of momentum towards his team.
But when Rondon made the most of a through ball to muscle himself into a position to lob the onrushing Everton keeper his effort would drift agonisingly wide. The feeling for many, I’m sure, that it was going to be one of those days Newcastle would never score. Certainly Pickford must have thought so, as his more ludicrous antics became more and more tangible as the half ticked on, this time sticking his tongue out at those in the Gallowgate end and chuckling away in great delight.
Oh how the Geordies would like to wipe that smile off that face…
On 65 minutes, hope. In a change of roles a long ball was brilliantly headed back into the path of Rondon by Ayoze Perez. Rondon would then exchange passes with the Spaniard, receiving a lovely chipped pass and slamming home a volley with this left foot. 1-2 and game on.
The pressure now building it seemed only one team was going to score another, Newcastle.
And on 81 minutes they had their equaliser. This time the otherwise relatively quiet Almiron bursting forward and unleashing a shot that didn’t seem to move too much but was enough to force Pickford to clumsily fumble the ball straight back into play and to the feet of Perez who’d gambled. Scenes then as Perez drilled the ball under Jordan’s dithering body to level things up.
Surely Newcastle couldn’t win it could they? Of course they could.
Not since the days of Sir Bobby Robson have Newcastle come back to win a game from 2-0 down. 2003 in fact against Fulham.
But a mix of Rondon and Perez once more saw to it that that stat can now be consigned to irrelevance.
This time it was a poorly cleared corner that would prove Everton’s downfall. The clearance falling to Yedlin how totally miss kicked what has to be assumed was supposed to be a cross straight into the path of Hayden who recycled the ball straight back into he Everton box. With Rondon reacting quickest to the lob his touch then fell to Perez on the edge of the 6 yard box allowing him to smash home with his left foot and send the home fans and players into delirium.
The fact that 5 Newcastle players were all clearly offside, and that the Everton players, including a certain goalkeeper all knew it, just made the winner even sweeter given the injustice in the first half.
There would be no scares before the end, and even time for a Shelvey cameo.
For those at St James Park this is one that won’t be forgotten in a hurry.