What an incredible day at St. James’ Park.
As I arrived to the ground yesterday the situation was simple – we had to better Brighton’s result to be crowned Champions. We played host to Barnsley, whilst Brighton were away to Aston Villa in the days 12pm kick offs.
After a slow start, a sublime Ayoze Perez flick gave us the lead midway through the first half, seeing us go into the break top of the league, with Brighton being held to a 0-0 draw against Aston Villa at this stage.
Chancel Mbemba made it two not long after the restart. It gave us a cushion and offered the crowd some relief, but you could still feel an air of tension, as Brighton were just a goal away from returning to the top.
Our worst fear then came true. Barnsley fans began celebrating, goading the nearby United fans. There was no need to check our phones for the latest scores, we knew. Brighton had taken the lead and to make matters worse, Villa had a man sent off in the process.
With Newcastle leading comfortably, the players were doing all they could, but the news made for a slightly flat next 20, as fans prayed for news of a Villa goal.
In the 90th minute, substitute Dwight Gayle capped off an outstanding season to make it 3-0, sealing a comfortable victory for the Magpies. The return of Gayle amongst the goals was a welcome sight, but not nearly as welcome as what came next.
Moments later, St. James’ Park erupted. Villa had equalised in the dying moments against Brighton!
The news filtered around the stadium within seconds, sending the crowd into a frenzy, with Newcastle all set to leapfrog Brighton and lift the title as things stood. Scenes of joy and jubilation spilled out, although there were still those refusing to celebrate until the final whistle had blown at Villa Park!
The full-time whistle blew at St. James’ and after a nervy few moments at Villa Park, it was confirmed – We were champions! Promotion was precious but this was the icing on the cake.
See below for the moment St. James’ Park found out Newcastle had won the title – what a moment!
The moment players & fans found out #NUFC had won the title..?
— NUFCblog.co.uk (@NUFCblogcouk) May 7, 2017
‘We are the champions’ boomed around St. James’ while Rafa and his men lapped up the applause their efforts have so thoroughly deserved. An incredible day and fitting end to a hugely successful season.
Rob Elliot – 7 – Some important second half saves to keep Barnsley at bay. Has came in and looked very assured given his lengthy absence.
DeAndre Yedlin – 7 – Assisted Perez’s opener. A constant out ball down the right.
Chancel Mbemba – 8 – Got the all important second goal and defended comfortably throughout. Carries the ball out of defence very well and continues to impress after a return to the team.
Isaac Hayden – N/A – Started at CB today but was forced off early through a head injury.
Paul Dummett – 7 – Another steady defensive display from Dummett. Filled in well at centre-back for the injured Hayden.
Jack Colback – 7 – Kept things ticking in midfield in the first half. His limitations are evident, but he put in a good shift.
Jonjo Shelvey – 6 – A slightly leggy and lacklustre performance by the midfield maestro. He needs a rest!
Christian Atsu – 8 – A constant threat cutting in from the right. Looked full of confidence and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet.
Ayoze Perez* – 9 – His best game at St. James’ Park all season. Superbly taken goal and was lively throughout. Looked to have his spark back. Made things happen and was always looking for the ball. Man of the match.
Yoan Gouffran 6 – Offered little offensively but worked hard and pressed the opposition well.
Aleksandar Mitrovic – 6 – Struggled to win his battles, falling to the floor all too often. Defended corners well and laid on the assist for Gayle’s late goal. A player in desperate need of a goal!
Haidara – 6 – Came on for the injured Hayden early on, seeing Dummett move in at centre-back. He was rusty, as expected, and a little erratic going forward but did his job defensively.
Gayle – N/A – Didn’t take him long to get back on the scoresheet at St. James’.
Diame – N/A – Had little time to impact the game but nearly scored late on with a low shot after a driving run.