Newcastle luckily came away with all three points against bottom of the league Crystal Palace on Saturday, but they didn't make it easy for themselves, bagging their only goal from an 86th minute Mikel Merino header that sent the fans into ecstasy. The win moved Newcastle up to 6th place in the table (at the time) and is their first win in over a month when they beat Stoke 2-1 at St James' Park.
Both sides didn't change a single player in their starting 11 from either of their previous games against Southampton and Chelsea respectively.
Match (First Half)
From the first whistle you could tell that Palace were up for a win after beating Chelsea last week, they never stopped pressurizing the toon and they made it harder for them to attack than it usually is. Winger Wilfred Zaha also caused us problems as I and possibly many other toon fans feared. However it should've been made a lot easier for the magpies early on. After a palace penalty appeal was denied, ex magpie Yohan Cabaye got very angry and purposely and aggressively slide tackled into Yedlin from behind which could've easily broken the American's leg and should've been a red card. Cabaye was quick to pull the 'sorry' card though and referee Stuart Attwell found his act convincing enough to only give him a yellow card, once again we all know that if it was Shelvey or Mitrovic who committed the foul it would've been a straight red.
Before Palace's previous game against Chelsea they hadn't even scored a single goal, however you wouldn't of thought that while watching this game. They looked scary on the attack (especially Andros Townsend of all people) and were often able to get past us a little too easily. Our only good chance at goal came on the 33rd minute when Christian Atsu made a brilliant run past two defenders before smashing the ball into the side netting making half the ground think it had gone in, unfortunately it hadn't.
The rest of the half was spent hoping and praying that Palace wouldn't eventually score. We were conceding corners, free kicks and often forgetting how to make simple passes, passing the ball directly to opposition players most of the time.
Palace had two chances to take the lead late in the first half, firstly Scott Dann's header that missed to the right before Zaha missed a sitter from Townsend's cross, letting the ball hit off the side of his face making the ball go well wide of the goal, Newcastle were really clinging on to 0-0 by the skin of their teeth when the whistle blew for half time.
Match (Second Half)
When the second half kicked off it was already obvious that changes were needed. Unfortunately there wasn't any half time changes and so we played exactly the same. We were never up to much in the first quarter of the second half, hardly being able to string two passes together and dribbling directly into Palace defenders, however during that time some hope was restored when Rafa brought on Merino for Hayden and Diame for Perez, both performing way better than the players they came on for, but Palace's domination continued until about the 70th minute when Diame gave us our first shot on target that would've found it's way into the top right corner if it wasn't for keeper Julián Speroni who caught the ball in the air.
Soon enough Newcastle's possession and attempts increased, Jonjo Shelvey came close to scoring just three minutes after Diame's attempt, smashing the ball towards goal from about 30 yards out which Speroni awkwardly saved with his forearm. For a brief moment it was Newcastle with all the possession.
On the 78th minute Aleksander Mitrovic came on for an ineffective Joselu, much to the crowd's delight as Mitrovic hadn't played since Newcastle's 3-0 triumph over West Ham in August. However Crystal Palace soon dominated the game once again as they almost scored the winner in a fast counter attack when Ruben Loftus-Cheek took advantage of Javier Manquillo's slip by perfectly guiding the ball towards the far post where Patrick Van-Aanholt could've tapped the ball in, luckily he just missed the ball as it rolled out for a goal kick. Newcastle were left really counting their blessings after the miss whilst Eagles supporters were left wondering how they hadn't scored at least one goal in a game that they had dominated.
Yet only six minutes later, Newcastle took the lead as Matt Ritchie's corner firmly found the head of Spaniard Mikel Merino who beautifully headed the ball up and over the goalkeeper into the net via the crossbar. Heartbreak for Palace fans but sweet joy for the magpies as they came away with all three points.
Our next match is away from home at 8th place Burnley on Monday the 30th of October. Burnley have transformed into a stable, decent premiership club these past two seasons and although they have only won once at home this campaign against Crystal Palace, they have managed to get some well-fought draws against the likes of Spurs and Liverpool whilst also beating Chelsea and Everton.
We will have to put up a performance much better than this one if we want a win down there and in my opinion Joselu and Perez shouldn't be starting as they haven't proven themselves to be first-team quality this season. In their place I would play Mitrovic and Diame. Although Diame isn't the best of players he is definitely better than Perez who has unfortunately turned into a shadow of his former self.
Realistically I think we'll draw the game. It will be a tough test after this one, but if we play well enough we could maybe sneak a win, but only just.