Brighton 1-0 Newcastle United
Four in a row was always going to be a big ask, even against fellow newly promoted Brighton.
And so it proved and what turned out to be a frustrating afternoon for Rafa and his men.
STARTING XI: Elliot, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Mbemba (Gamez, 83), Hayden (Shelvey, 68), Merino, Ritchie, Atsu, Perez, Joselu (Gayle, 71)
Just over 30,000 were in the Amex to watch this one with a health contingent of Mags after selling all their allocation as usual.
But the away fans would leave empty handed, most scratching their heads, wondering how on earth their team didn’t get something from this one. Certainly the match stats, in this case a pretty good reflection of events, indicated that Newcastle did all but score with 17 shots to the hosts 7 and almost twice as many on target.
And the result could have been so different but for another wasteful display in front of goal from Spaniard Joselu. His first time effort, when presented with only the keeper to beat, would only serve to frustrate those in black and white as he dragged the ball wide of Ryan in the Brighton goal with only 22 minutes on the clock. This on the back of missing three glorious chances last week against Stoke must surely give the manager some food for thought with Mitro available again next time out.
That was the closest either side would come on the first half in what was a pretty even affair to that point.
Into the second half though and it would be a very different story.
On 50 minutes Brighton would take the chance presented to them. A free kick from Gross to the back post would be headed back across goal by Stephens allowing Tomer Hemed to hook home. And if that goal was harsh on Newcastle the remainder of the game would only prove to be harder to take.
In what appeared to then be a game of attack v defence for 40 minutes with Brighton only looking dangerous on the odd counter attack there would prove to be no way through for the black and whites.
A subsequent missed chance for Joselu, chances for Ritchie and Murphy, a header from Lascelles and even a post hit directly from a corner from sub Shelvey wouldn’t bring the equaliser and in the end Rafa and his troops would be left contemplating what might have been.
The victory would be Chris Hughton’s first over Rafa Benitez and would see Newcastle down to 10th after an Arsenal win on Monday night.
The loss for Newcastle would be the second against newly promoted rivals and one that we hope will not prove costly in the end.