An incredible return to football at St James’ Park for Newcastle United, with us securing our biggest league win of the season against a high-flying Sheffield Utd side.
Not only was it our most convincing victory of Steve Bruce’s tenure, the first time we’ve scored 3 Premier League goals on Tyneside this season and a win that takes us ELVEN points clear of the drop zone, it was a game that saw Joelinton bag his first league goal at St James’ Park!
It’s ironic that all the above happens the one time we aren’t allowed inside the stadium, but that was an absolutely brilliant watch from our sofas after three months away.
Sheffield Utd dominated the ball in the opening exchanges and had us on the back foot immediately, winning a few free kicks in dangerous areas and forcing a couple of corners.
We soon got a foot-hold in the game, however, going close through a dangerous cut-back from Saint-Maximin that just evaded black and white shirts and a well hit shot from Ritchie which was palmed away well by Dean Henderson.
Our big chance of the first half then arrived 17 minutes in. It was a swift counter-attack and promising bit of link up play between our front three (watch below), but the finish that followed was one you’d expect from a £40 player – not a £40m one:
On the plus side it was a nice move, featuring a brilliant burst from deep from Saint-Maximin, a perfectly weighted pass from Almiron and a good run from Joelinton, but the Brazilian had to do better and never looked like scoring, sadly.
A horror moment for the under-fire forward, but he was working hard and getting into some better positions and we were playing quite well on the whole. Saint-Maximin looked sharp, Almiron’s pace was causing them problems from a more central role, Shelvey looked fit and keen to get forward and Hayden was reading the danger brilliantly in front of our four-man defence.
After starting a little slowly, we ended the half the better side and looked in decent shape as we went into the break at 0-0. We were all ruing Joelinton’s big miss – he more than anyone else – but there were plenty early positives to take.
The second half then started with a bang.
He may have fluffed his lines in the first 45 with a big miss, but some sheer power and brilliant pressing saw Joelinton force his way through on goal, only to be pulled down by an already booked Egan.
A second yellow was produced and Sheffield United were down to 10 men.
This was our chance to take advantage of a Blades side who were not only a man light, but looking a shadow of the team that had seen them lose just once on the road all season, and it wasn’t long until we capitalised.
Matt Ritchie broke clear down the left-hand side after latching onto a loose ball. His ball into the box was poor, yet somehow found it’s way to Saint-Maximin at the back post after a complete mishit from Enda Stevens – and he was alive to the loose ball and finished well!
We were in a dream position and on top, but complacency slipped in on the hour mark, with Billy Sharp missing a golden chance to draw Sheffield Utd level, heading wide from close range after Baldock was given too much time and space to cross.
Moments later, we were then presented with another huge opportunity of our own. Saint-Maximin skinned Robinson down out right and cut the ball back for Almiron. He had to score, but hit a tame shot straight at Henderson.
Sheffield United were looking leggy, slow and there for the taking – and it wasn’t long until we fully capitalised!
A well deserved second arrived and it was that man Matt Ritchie who was involved again, smashing home from the edge of the box to give us that all important two-goal cushion:
2-0 up and we were flying, but it soon got even better.
Andy Carroll was stripped and ready to come on, with commentators confirming it was Joelinton who was about to make way and extend his Premier League goalscoring drought, then this happened…
After a clever ball out wide for Almiron, the big man then burst into the box – something we’ve not seen him do enough – and got on the end of the Paraguayan’s resultant cross, prodding past Henderson to score his FIRST Premier League goal of the season at St James’ Park.
He was then replaced by Carroll, with Saint-Maximin also coming off for Nabil Bentaleb, but that was the perfect end to a brilliant performance from all involved and a well deserved reward for all the Brazilian’s effort.
Lazaro, Schar and Yedlin then came on for the final few minutes, replacing Almiron, Shelvey and Ritchie, as we coasted to a 3-0 win over the Blades – who’ve now conceded a staggering 18% of their Premier League goals to Newcastle this season!
I feared this could be a boring draw at best today, but how Steve Bruce and the boys have proved me wrong!
A brilliant effort from all involved, with us looking fit, sharp and up for the fight all over the pitch.
Howay the lads!