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Eddie Howe calls Matt Ritchie an inspiration after he rescues Newcastle a point

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 17 Feb 2024

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Relieved Newcastle boss Eddie Howe hailed “inspirational” Matt Ritchie after seeing him come off the bench to snatch a Premier League draw with former club Bournemouth.

The 34-year-old midfielder struck seconds after his stoppage-time introduction – his first goal since July 2022 – to hand the Magpies a 2-2 draw as they twice came from behind to deny the Cherries.

Head coach Howe said: “He’s an inspirational character behind the scenes. He’s someone who in training every day, he drives standards.

“He’s very vocal, very enthusiastic. Even in the changing room before the game, he’s the one driving the group – and that’s someone who hasn’t played as much as he’d like, but he’s put the team ahead of his own needs.

“When you see someone like that, you just hope they will get their reward. I’ve tried to reward him with my value being as high as it could be and desperately wanting to keep him here last year because of those standards he drives, and because he’s a role model.

“He gives his experience to players in ways that even I don’t know. For him to get that moment and score that goal, it’s huge for us and I’m delighted for him.”

Ritchie’s intervention could hardly have been better-timed on an eventful afternoon at St James’ Park.

After a first half during which goalkeeper Martin Dubravka had keep the hosts in the game, he inadvertently handed Bournemouth a 51st-minute lead when he slipped after controlling Sven Botman’s back-pass and Dominic Solanke took full advantage.

Anthony Gordon levelled from the penalty spot after a lengthy VAR check for Adam Smith’s tug on Fabian Schar’s shirt, a decision which infuriated Bournemouth boss Andoni Iraola.

Iraola said: “For me it’s very difficult to accept the result. I cannot accept the first goal they scored, the penalty decision. He’s in an offside position.

“I’ve been talking to the referees after the game. I’m not smart enough to understand their explanations. If only we are talking about the foul – it’s a very soft foul for a set-piece because on set-pieces and corners, everyone grabs, goes to the floor and they are not calling anything all season, but they called a foul.

“We have to accept it. We will complain, but we have to accept it. But he was in an offside position, the ball goes exactly where he is, my player grabs the shirt because otherwise he is going to head the ball, obviously affects the play, and they spend 10 minutes (with) five, six referees watching the play.

“Also the VAR doesn’t show the referee the wide camera so he can take the decision of the offside position. For me, it’s very difficult to accept, very, very, very difficult to accept, because I think we deserve a little bit of respect.

“I know we are Bournemouth, we are a small club, but we deserve much more respect than this.”

Antoine Semenyo looked to have won it with a sweet 69th-minute strike, but Ritchie had different ideas.

Howe said: “The way the game had gone and the goals we conceded were tough blows for us. Real credit to the group for raising themselves. It’s not the three (points) we wanted, but I’m glad we didn’t lose.”

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