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REPORT: TOWN 0-1 NEWCASTLE UNITED

15 December 2018

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A frustrating afternoon in HD1 as despite having the better of the play it was visitors Newcastle United who took all three points back to the North East.

Salomón Rondón struck the decisive blow on the counter mid-way through the second-half to ensure Rafa Benítez's Toon completed a smash-and-grab victory in West Yorkshire.

On the back of another encouraging in the Capital at Arsenal last Saturday, the starting XI witnessed three changes. In a week of disappointing long-term injury setbacks, Aaron Mooy and Danny Williams both missed out with respective knee troubles, and Tommy Smith joined his teammates on the sidelines with a hamstring problem. Amongst the chosen replacements was Juninho Bacuna, making his first Premier League start in Town colours. Philip Billing and Florent Hadergjonaj coming back into the team rounded off the trio of alterations on a bitterly cold mid-December afternoon.

The bid to avenge three straight defeats was certainly positive from the word go. A number of neat touches in and around the box from the newly selected Bacuna opened up a chance for Alex Pritchard to work some magic close to the byline. Pritch's work resulted in a corner, to which the figure of Laurent Depoitre could only hook wide having muscled his way past marker Jamaal Lascelles to fashion a half chance.

Bacuna was out to prove himself in the opening exchanges. Not only did the midfielder - who arrived from FC Groningen in the summer - look a threat on the offensive end, his tenacious characteristics were also there for all to see, shutting down a number of potential moves down the Newcastle left before a cross towards target man Salomón Rondón could materialise.

It may have been tremendously cold but a tremendous Philip Billing free-kick went great lengths to warming up the packed crowd. A blistering left-footed set piece - won as a result of typically dogged work to retain possession from the skipper Jonathan Hogg - was agonisingly tipped over Martin Dúbravka as it beckoned for the top corner.

Back the Magpies, hunting to avenge a previous week's defeat themselves, on the wrong side of a 2-1 scoreline at home to Wolves. Ayoze Pérez delivered a clever, curved pass beyond the reach of Christopher Schindler aiming for the run of Rondón, but the Venezuelan fell just short in his galloping attempts to stab home as Jonas Lössl smothered with confidence.

Town's Danish custodian was called upon seconds later, reacting smartly down low to deny Fabian Schär from finishing despite raucous calls for offside by the majority of the adjacent Britannia Rescue stand.

End to end stuff in truth, with neither side creating clear-cut opportunities. It was turning into a real battle of the central areas in order to grab a firm grasp on a tight contest.

Two deliveries posed the best of Town's dangers. Hadergjonaj and Bacuna both whipped in tantalising low deliveries from opposite flanks towards Depoitre in a good position around the penalty area. And on both occasions the Belgian's luck still wasn't in, failing to make adequate connection to force goalwards.

The Blue and Whites continued to be the outfit making waves and in the ascendancy as the second half began to take shape.

Terence Kongolo's near-post cross was flicked on by Pritchard, only to land minimally out of Philip Billing's long reach inside the 18-yard box.

Jonas Lössl had to be alert to palm Christian Atsu's long-range strike from distance, and the pressure would ultimately be relieved as Brazilian winger Kenedy blazed well over into the travelling support.

However, the next Tynesiders' breakway wouldn't end with the same result.

The sucker-punch arrived as Salomón Rondón slid home a cruel opener from Javier Manquillo's square pass having been found by Ayoze Pérez's inventive flick round the corner to draw the Town defence out of position and open a gap, which Spaniard Manquillo gratefully used to full advantage.

Rafa Benitez instantly instructed his men to sit even deeper and frustrate the Terriers' endeavours to nab an equaliser.

It wasn't through a lack of trying, but the Geordies' defensive unit seemed to repel everything that was thrown at it in HD1 in light of Rondón's blow.

Ramadan Sobhi thought he'd a chance to head Florent Hadergjonaj's cross into the back of the net; Ciaran Clark had other ideas, diverting away for a corner as the Egyptian stooped to win the aerial duel.

Substitute Matt Ritchie may well have capped the afternoon for the visitors by adding a late second, ahead of a possible equalising opportunity for the Terriers which saw Billing's clip skim beyond the capabilities of Depoitre's advances.

A tough day at the office, as Town look to bounce back on home soil against Southampton a week today (22 December 2018, 3pm).

TOWN (3-5-2)

Jonas Lössl; Terence Kongolo (Erik Durm, 60'), Christopher Schindler, Mathias Zanka; Chris Löwe (Ramadan Sobhi, 60'), Juninho Bacuna, Jonathan Hogg (c) (Isaac Mbenza, 76'), Philip Billing, Florent Hadergjonaj; Alex Pritchard, Laurent Depoitre

UNUSED SUBS

Ben Hamer, Jon Gorenc Stanković, Collin Quaner, Elias Kachunga

NEWCASTLE UNITED

Martin Dúbravka; Ciaran Clark, Jamaal Lascelles (c), Fabian Schär, Javier Manquillo; Christian Atsu, Mohamed Diamé, Ki Sung-Yeung (Isaac Hayden, 72'), Kenedy (Paul Dummett, 89'); Ayoze Pérez, Salomón Rondón (Matt Ritchie, 80')

UNUSED SUBS

Freddie Woodman, Jacob Murphy, Yoshinori Muto, Joselu

REFEREE

Anthony Taylor

GATE

24,036 (2,284 Newcastle)


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