Newcastle United 1 Crystal Palace 0
- Simon Hooper
Miguel Almirón’s long-awaited first goal for Newcastle United gave Steve Bruce’s men a late 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday.
It was largely a game to forget, as both sides struggled to find much of a rhythm on a chilly afternoon at St. James’ Park which took until the 83rd minute to liven up.
But when it did, the roof came off as Almirón’s controlled first-time strike – which came thanks in part to Andy Carroll’s cushioned knockdown – won it for the hosts, and extended United’s unbeaten home record in the Premier League to eight games.
That fine run, which stretches back to August, has helped Newcastle up to ninth in the table at Christmas – just three points shy of the top five.
Much of the early running in a drab contest was made by the hosts. Almirón’s delicately-weighted through ball found Isaac Hayden, who rounded Vicente Guaita but lost his footing, recovering only when the angle was too narrow to finish.
Guaita held onto shots from Almirón and the returning Florian Lejeune, playing his first game in eight months after overcoming the cruciate ligament injury he suffered against the Eagles back in April, while Christian Benteke headed a fine cross from Patrick van Aanholt wide at the other end.
It was a half of few openings, but quite a few half-chances. Cheikhou Kouyate headed over before Wilfried Zaha, who was generally well handled by the Magpies, found space in the box and fired low across Dúbravka, who got a strong arm to it before gathering.
The visitors’ captain Luka Milivojevic curled a free kick wide and then, after the restart, James McArthur’s clip was blocked by Dúbravka, who was again in outstanding form. The Scot pulled the trigger again minutes later, but his drive was always swerving well wide of the upright.
From there, after the hour, Palace pressed. Van Aanholt’s corner was turned wide by James Tomkins, who almost immediately had to race back to halt Joelinton’s burst into the box. Once more, with 15 minutes remaining, the Magpies were indebted to Dúbravka, who got down quickly parry Benteke’s powerful shot.
Bruce sent on Dwight Gayle in the closing stages and the frontman partnered Carroll, who had shown his worth in his own penalty area in the second half as he helped Newcastle defend a wave of attacks from the Eagles.
And inside the final ten minutes, Carroll’s presence was felt in the Palace box, and it led to the winner. Fabian Schär hooked a high cross over to the far post where the towering forward was lurking, and his delicate knockdown shunted the ball back into the path of Almirón.
After almost a year of waiting, his first goal for Newcastle finally arrived. Guaita got a hand to it but it was always heading for the corner of the net and, when it did, St. James’ Park erupted, the Paraguayan’s shirt came off, and the game was won.