Matt Ritchie scored the only goal on Sunday afternoon as Newcastle United earned their first Premier League win at St James’ Park since October against Manchester United.
The struggling Magpies struck in the 65th minute with a cool finish from the former Bournemouth man to lift themselves out of the Premier League relegation zone.
Slow start at St James’ Park
Jonjo Shelvey was the man to unleash the first shot in anger at St James’ Park. With the ball falling to the midfielder on the edge of the box following a Newcastle free-kick, he aimed for the top corner with a powerful effort. David De Gea though palmed the ball away with an excellent diving save.
Alexis Sánchez also did well to power his way to the by-line but his cross was cut out before it could reach Romelu Lukaku, who was waiting in the centre. The Chilean combined with Jesse Lingard to force Newcastle stopper, Martin Dúbravka, who was making his Magpies debut, into action soon after. The England winger was put through on goal and looked to fire into the bottom corner but the goalkeeper dropped low to deflect away.
Dúbravka steps up again
The Slovakian keeper also had to be alert to stop Anthony Martial in what was Manchester United’s most promising move of the first period. Romelu Lukaku touched the ball onto Nemanja Matić who in turn released Martial down the right-side with a excellent through-ball. The former Monaco man raced away from the Newcastle defence and looked to finish low into the net but the stopper stuck out a foot to keep the scores level.
There were loud appeals from the home side for a penalty as Dwight Gayle went down under Chris Smalling’s challenge. The referee however was unmoved.
Lukaku should have opened the scoring in the final seconds of the first half as he latched onto a skilful knock-down from Sánchez. The Belgian striker though was denied by an excellent block from a Newcastle body. As a result, both sides went into the break level.
United frustration grows
The ex-Everton striker did eventually have the ball in the net as he nodded home from close range after the restart. However, the strike was ruled out due to a foul on Newcastle defender, Florian Lejeune.
The Red Devils began to grow confident as the second period progressed. Sánchez showed great skill to dribble past three defenders and into the penalty area. He then prodded towards goal but the ball was deflected away to the relief of the home support. Another heroic block from Lejeune ensured the scores stayed level, and again he denied Sánchez. The Chilean had been found by Lukaku with an excellent reverse pass and had skipped past Dúbravka. The French defender though somehow stopped what would have been a certain goal.
Ritchie strikes for the Magpies
Despite the visitors’ dominance, it was Rafa Benitez’s men who opened the scoring. Earning a free-kick on the left-flank, Jonjo Shelvey tossed in the long ball. The cross was knocked down by Lejuene and found its way to Dwight Gayle. The forward produced a clever flick to the unmarked Matt Ritchie who in turn finished coolly past De Gea.
José Mourinho attempted to react by introducing Michael Carrick and Juan Mata for Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard. It almost paid off immediately as Ashley Young raced away from Yedlin and took a shot at goal; Dúbravka again though reacted well.
Huge chances come and go for Manchester United
Martial twice had the opportunity to drag the Red Devils level in the closing quarter of an hour. Picking up the ball only yards from goal from a free-kick, the Frenchman was denied by both Paul Dummett and Gayle with goal-line blocks.
The Magpies continued to defend admirably throughout the final exchanges of the contest, with Dúbravka again producing a wonderful late save to secure an excellent victory over Mourinho’s United.
This was a crucial game for Newcastle United to win, and they will be overjoyed that they managed to do it. The hosts were excellent on the day despite not troubling the United defence all that consistently. They were aggressive in their approach and it was a well-worked goal that won the game for Rafa Benitez’s troops. As a result of their victory, they now sit 13th in the Premier League table, two points clear of the drop zone.
Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho will be disappointed with how wasteful his team were at St James’ Park. Martial, Lukaku and Sanchez all had wonderful opportunities to score. They were undone by sloppy defending in relation to Newcastle’s goal and will hope to react against Huddersfield Town in their FA Cup fifth round meeting next weekend. The Red Devils remain second in the table but now lag 16 points behind leaders, Manchester City.
Newcastle United: Dúbravka (8); Dummett (6), Lejeune (7), Lascelles (7), Yedlin (6); Kenedy (7) (Atsu (N/A), 84′), Shelvey (8), Diamé (7), Ritchie (8); Pérez (6) (Hayden (N/A), (90+4′), Gayle (7) (Joselu (N/A), 79′).
Manchester United: De Gea (6); Valencia (6), Smalling (7), Jones (6), Young (7); Matić (7) (McTominay (N/A), 77′), Pogba (5) (Carrick (5), 66′); Martial (5), Lingard (5) (Mata (5), 66′), Sánchez (6); Lukaku (6).
Goals: Ritchie (65′)
Referee: Craig Pawson
Yellow Cards: Smalling (64′)
Red Cards: N/A
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