Newcastle United 2-0 Huddersfield
A day for setting the record straight on a number of fronts. A day when Newcastle United could, and probably should, have won by a cricket score. One that did however yield three points and a thoroughly enjoyable experience for most of the 52,174 crammed into St James Park.
This was, of course, a day that Newcastle fans had been desperate to see for too many years. A new record signing making his home debut. That man, Almirón, wouldn’t disappoint.
The game can be summed up by heaping praise on the debutant’s 81 minute performance, and on Rondon (immense once more) and excellent games from Longstaff, Yedlin, Lejeune and Perez. The latter joining Rondon on the score sheet.
A 2-0 win that also say Kevin Friend produce the ‘lesser spotted’ red card. 155 games and 5 years it has been since an opposing player had been dismissed against Newcastle. A disgusting studs up lunge from captain Tommy Smith earning him a place on the very short list of those who have received fair punishment for such actions over the years.
STARTING XI: Dubravka, Yedlin, Schar, Lascelles, Lejeune, Ritchie (Kenedy 68), Hayden, Longstaff, Perez, Almirón (Atsu, 81), Rondon (Joselu, 84)
To their credit, Huddersfield had flown out of the traps. In fact for the first 10 minutes it looked like Town were going to make it an extremely uncomfortable afternoon for those in black and white.
The Magpies needed a spark. And they would find it through their Paraguayan.
With 12 minutes on the clock Newcastle broke from the back, with a slick passage of play that Manchester City would have been proud of. And when Isaac Hayden set Miggy away with a defence splitting pass it looked for all the world like the new man was about to make the perfect start to his career on Tyneside. But whilst his chip form the edge of the box did manage to take keeper Lossl completely out of the game, his effort would agonisingly hit the foot of the keepers right hand post and bounce back into play. The rebound was picked up by Rondon who’s powerful effort from a more difficult angle would then also smash against the same upright.
Huddersfield should have taken this as a warning. Leaving space behind the visitors defence at St James is not something that would usually cause teams real issues. But the pace and movement of the new man would make the black and whites a different proposition today.
So when, on 20 minutes, Almiron’s touch would slightly let him down, it should have been no surprise to anyone that he would have the acceleration to atone for his error. Tommy Smith was surprised. First that he didn’t get to the ball first when he initially looked favourite to do so, and then again when you saw that Friend was brandishing a red in his direction. He need not have looked shocked. The tackle was a potential leg breaker and we should all be thankful that Miguel did not have his foot planted at the time or the outcome would have been very, very different.
Whilst Newcastle had looked like they were starting to get a grip of the game just before the sending off, the red card made sure of it.
From this point the only question mark would be ‘how did Newcastle not fill their boots?’
Domination turned to slight frustration as the first half ticked on to the break. Rondon perhaps most guilty of missing a header he normally would have at least put on target. Whilst the new Almirón also had a lovely curling shot form inside the box well saved.
What United needed in the second half was an early break through, to settle the nerves.
And that’s exactly what they got. A sweeping move just 60 seconds into the half in fact eventually saw Rondon slam home from the edge of the 6 yard box. And if that was enough the ease any thoughts of it being ‘one of those days’ then 4 minutes later it was game over. Again Almiron involved with a good deep cross that came back across the box to Perez to thump home from almost exactly the same position as the first.
More chances would come and go. Most notably from Kenedy who would smash a shot against the bar after coming on as a sub, and from Longstaff who almost wrapped the game up with what would have been a wonder strike, again, only to be denied by the woodwork.
This had to be Newcastle United’s best performance of the season. Comfortable, dominant, exiting, and a good day not to be at their most clinical.
Oh, and a wonderful debut from Miguel Almirón.