If you didn’t fear Newcastle were going to somehow mess this up, you must be new to all of this
In spite of everything constantly going on around here, there was a sudden air of optimism about this game. Injuries abating and the team coming into a bit of form, an exciting new signing to see and a bottom of the league opponent looking increasingly hopeless and out of their depth.
If you didn’t on some level fear that Newcastle were going to mess this up, you must be new to all of this.
I have to say I was surprised that Almiron was getting his first start, expecting more of an impact sub role for the new lad, but Rafa was clearly looking to snap at the Terriers today. As Miggy joined Perez in a new-look front three behind Rondon, who must have found it strange to be playing with a team mate regularly closer than 50 yards to him.
Huddersfield actually had the ball for pretty much the entire first five minutes, pushing on a bit in a high-vis kit that made their entire appearance look like some kind of pro-Brexit protest. Fortunately, this was not to be a day for dwelling on such miserable thoughts, as things were soon to get interesting.
Miguel Almiron has brought a wave of positivity to Newcastle beyond the incredulity of his actual signing. The plethora of good wishes from the lovely people from Atlanta United seems infectious as the fervour in the US for the lad to do well is peaking interest in Newcastle United out there. Almiron was not about to disappoint anyone on either side of the Atlantic.
Suddenly United had pace and impetus in attack through Almiron’s mazy runs, a link between Ritchie and Longstaff’s endeavour and Rondon’s presence in the box. On the counter, Huddersfield were utterly terrified and the 13th minute came so close to delivering one of those eternally memorable moments that we are occasionally allowed to witness.
Some lovely one touch play saw Hayden release the eager Miggy in behind two visiting defenders who were instantly made to look very slow indeed. The new lad zipped off and picked his moment to send a beautifully cheeky chip over the head of Lossl. As the crowd rose in anticipation of a timeless debut goal, it only went and hit the post and bounced past the reach of the onrushing Almiron. He instantly deferred to the more experienced Rondon to provide the finish, with our number nine obligingly smacking the same post. A few people might have wondered here, if we would rue this type of close call later on.
Minutes later Almiron was at it again. Perez powered through a tackle to unleash the Paraguayan in a near identical position, only for Huddersfield defender Tommy Smith to jump in with a shin breaker that could have utterly destroyed our little dalliance with happiness. I can only assume the ref was as taken with Almiron as everyone else, as he broke the unwritten Premier League rule and sent off someone playing against Newcastle. Looking forward to another one in four more years.
This was a boost to our chances of winning of course but it was also potentially horrible. Huddersfield had only one point from their last 13 games and not beating them today would have looked a bit disappointing. If we couldn’t beat them after playing 70 minutes against ten men that was a whole other level. Documentary on Netflix embarrassing there.
You had to wonder as well, as Lossl in the Terriers goal started to look inspired. He saved full stretch to his right from Almiron, then to his left from Perez, in between letting a speculative shot from a certain busy Paraguayan wriggle tamely through his grasp. A defender on the line got him off with that one though, and we approached half time exhilarated and entertained, but still without a breakthrough. This should have come in the final seconds of added time as Sean Longstaff took the ball off Huddersfield and played a smart one-two with Perez before sending over a sublime cross that was pinpointed onto Rondon’s head at the back post. A simple finish from the sort of ball in strikers dream of, but Rondon managed to steer his diving header wide. Oh no, were we going to regret all this?
It did not take long at all for the second half to blow away any doubts. Lejeune played a magnificent cross-field pass to send Yedlin in behind, and his first time ball created havoc that Rondon quickly reacted to, smashing home to make amends for his fifty-pence head before the break.
With Huddersfield stuck on eleven points and hopelessly out of touch, damage limitation surely wasn’t an option for them, they’d have to push forward a bit and that would give United all sorts of opportunities.
Five minutes later, a startlingly similar pattern, as Lejeune again played a magnificent attacking ball, this time for Almiron to run onto and quickly fizz across. Yedlin’s header back across was helped on by Rondon and Perez steered it into the corner to end a brilliant team move. Game over for sure.
It may have seemed disappointing that United didn’t add to this total in the remaining forty minutes but this wasn’t through lack of effort. Perez played an excellent one-two with Almiron but emulated Rondon’s antics of steering wide with the goal gaping. Hayden’s cross was met with such thunderous venom on the volley by Kenedy it reminded me of Mick Hucknall out of Simply Red’s debut goal for Fulchester United in Viz (there’s a reference for anyone from Georgia to look up). Lossl saved brilliantly of course, with the help of the bar.
Rafa clearly had an eye on Tuesday night’s visit of Burnley, as he started removing attacking players and winding the game down. Ritchie and Rondon were both replaced, either side of a deserved standing ovation for our mercurial new signing, who had been everywhere in this game and been the main driving force in a thoroughly entertaining display. I only hope he can be part of something that continues to grow, with a worthy team sprouting up around him.
Surprisingly, given the amount of mentions, Almiron maybe has to settle for runner-up in the Man of the match stakes. Sean Longstaff was magnificent again, his cool, measured performance in the middle of the park the platform from which so many attacks were launched. He had the last word, striking a formidable effort from outside the box, but giving the goal frame yet another rattling, as Huddersfield escaped with a flattering scoreline.
Our opponents’ Premier League adventure is surely ending and critics will point to their current predicament as a poor indicator for the strength of a seemingly regalvanised United. Hopefully this all continues against Burnley and we can somehow look towards a brighter future.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 2 Huddersfield 0
Rondon 46, Perez 52
Possession was Huddersfield 46% Newcastle 54%
Total shots were Huddersfield 3 Newcastle 29
Shots on target were Huddersfield 1 Newcastle 12
Corners were Huddersfield 0 Newcastle 12
Referee: Kevin Friend
Dubravka, Yedlin, Schar, Lascelles, Lejeune, Ritchie (Kenedy 68), Hayden, Longstaff, Almiron (Atsu 81), Perez, Rondon (Joselu 84)
Woodman, Manquillo, Dummett, Ki
Crowd: 52,174 (Huddersfield 2,200)
To read instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to this win go HERE
Read match ratings of all Newcastle players HERE
Huddersfield manager claims red card changed everything HERE
Rafa Benitez gives his opinion on the 2-0 win HERE.
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf
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