Newcastle United 1 Crystal Palace 0
Newcastle United FC
- Stuart Attwell
Mikel Merino’s first goal for Newcastle United saw off Crystal Palace and settled a tight encounter at St. James’ Park.
A 0-0 draw looked to be inevitable after a largely forgettable 85 minutes, only for Merino to guide home Matt Ritchie’s corner from the left.
Up until that point, the Eagles had more than matched United but, with no out-and-out frontman, they did not pose a huge threat in front of goal.
The first half took its time to come to life, a blocked effort from either team – Jonjo Shelvey for United, Yohan Cabaye for Palace – providing the only flickers of goalmouth action early on.
It was Roy Hodgson’s side, however, who started to look the livelier as time wore on. Wilfried Zaha was proving a particular threat, bringing a smart stop out of Rob Elliot with a cross-come-shot after keeping a move alive deep on the left flank.
The Ivorian then saw a penalty appeal waved away by Stuart Attwell after a coming-together with Jamaal Lascelles. As United looked to counter, Cabaye dived in on DeAndre Yedlin, and was perhaps fortunate to escape with just a yellow card.
That was as close as United came to threatening goalkeeper Julián Speroni ahead of the interval, and their struggles in the attacking half continued as the second period got up and running.
Again, it was Palace who looked the more purposeful going forward, without necessarily calling Elliot into action. With 65 minutes on the clock, United old boy Andros Townsend curled over the crossbar from 12 yards after stepping inside.
In response, Rafa Benítez brought Mohamed Diamé into the fray to support lone frontman Joselu, and within five minutes of coming on, the Senegalese midfielder forced Speroni to gather a bending effort.
Shelvey then stung the Palace ‘keeper’s palms as Newcastle started to stir, only for the Eagles to threaten again.
Substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek profited from a slip in the United backline to deliver a low cross from the right, full-back Patrick van Aanholt just inches from a connection.
But, with the wind swirling and the rain gushing down, the Magpies had the final say after all. Merino – a second-half replacement for Isaac Hayden – rose high to meet Ritchie’s corner 12 yards out, and the ball dropped over the head of Speroni to send the Toon Army home happy.