What. A. Win.
Newcastle frustrated, stopped, and defeated Manchester United in a 1-0 thriller. Matt Ritchie and Martin Dubravka were the stars of the match but every player on the pitch for the Toon played a huge role in keeping the Red Devils at bay.
At the beginning of the match, Newcastle were below the relegation line and needed all three points to stay clear, for now. Newcastle needed an inspiring performance to defeat Manchester United, especially after their run of form at home (no wins since October). That is exactly what Rafa Benitez got from his men.
The first half was a sloppy one with chances going for both teams. Newcastle pushed the ball forward, which may have been sort of a surprise because of the conservative play the Toon has had against clubs higher up the table. It also helped that St. James’ Park was loud and cheering for every tackle and play forward. Truly an electric atmosphere.
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Newcastle’s first chance came early in the first half with a Jonjo Shelvey strike stopped by David De Gea. Little quality chances followed that, except for a foul on Dwight Gayle that should have been a penalty, but was not rewarded. Not much of a surprise as Newcastle is at the bottom of the Premier League in that statistic (only one penalty!). Martin Dubravka had to be great as he had two quality saves, one against Lingarde and another on Anthony Martial who was in all alone, but was stopped by the Slovakian in his debut.
The second half was wildly entertaining as every player and fan knew what was on the line. After a few chances early on in the half, Newcastle was awarded a set piece after a needless dive from Chris Smalling. Shelvey took the free kick where Florian Lejeune did a great job to flick his header onto Dwight Gayle who then laid the ball perfectly to a wide open Matt Ritchie who made no mistake. Ritchie slammed the ball to the left of De Gea, low enough where a save would have been near impossible. A quality strike from Ritchie for his first goal of the Premier League campaign.
St. James’ Park was electric, the loudest it has been the whole season. But Manchester United still had plenty of time to apply pressure and pot a goal to go home with at least one point. After some great defending and clearances, Newcastle made it to stoppage time where the Red Devils really stepped up the pressure. But Martin Dubravka, in his debut no less, stayed strong and made a terrific save at the end stoppage time to keep the second placed team scoreless.
With the three points, Newcastle go from being in 17th to 13th. They are only 3 points away from Bournemouth who are in 10th place. The bottom half of the table is close, but this win is very encouraging.
What a game! What a win!