Joe Willock earns Newcastle a priceless point against Spurs

Harry Kane’s brace looked to be sending his side fourth before Arsenal loanee equalises

Joe Willock celebrates after scoring Newcastle’s lats equaliser against Spurs. Photograph: Scott Heppell/Getty

Joe Willock celebrates after scoring Newcastle’s lats equaliser against Spurs. Photograph: Scott Heppell/Getty

 

Newcastle United 2 Tottenham Hotspur 2

Steve Bruce must have felt a familiar shudder of apprehension as Harry Kane walked past him in the tunnel before kick-off on Sunday. Newcastle’s manager has long subscribed to the theory that “teams are only as good as their strikers” and, in Kane, Tottenham possess a world-class centre-forward.

Not for the first time, the England striker delighted in demonstrating precisely why he is so widely coveted with a consummate all-round performance capped by two goals scored in the space of four first-half minutes.

Some kamikaze defending apart Newcastle played in the much improved manner of a side who appear to have reached a truce with a manager several players had expected to be sacked at the start of the international break.

This new found resolve was rewarded with a point secured courtesy of Joe Willock’s 85th minute equaliser – a goal which could yet have a significant bearing on both the race to avoid relegation and the Champions League places.

While it kept Newcastle out of the bottom three, that leveller also dictated José Mourinho had to settle for his Spurs side rising to fifth rather than fourth as his somewhat iffy record at St James’ Park continued. A man mentored by the former Newcastle manager Sir Bobby Robson has won only once in nine visits to the ground where Robson always told him he should one day be manager.

Considering Bruce and Mourinho are in currently competition for an unwanted coronation as the Premier League’s least popular manager, such a scenario is not quite beyond the bounds of possibility. Indeed the technical area duel seemed something of an inverted beauty contest.

The small band of Newcastle fans who had gathered outside St James’ Park 90 minutes before kick-off certainly did not appear to have made the trip in order to applaud the home manager. In a perhaps forlorn attempt to alter such hostile perceptions, not to mention tease a positive performance from his players, Bruce made five alterations to the side dismembered 3-0 at Brighton a fortnight ago, with Arsenal loanee Willock among those jettisoned.

There was also an abandonment of the 4–3-1-2 system devised by his newish assistant Graeme Jones as Newcastle reverted to the three at the back, wing-back propelled configuration beloved of Rafael Benítez. It facilitated a first start for Matt Ritchie since the left wing-back called Bruce a “coward” in a well-documented training ground altercation.

Harry Kane scores his first against newcastle. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty/AFP
Harry Kane scores his first against newcastle. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty/AFP

Happily for Bruce, Ritchie looked anything but rusty and played an effective part in a fairly even start. Although Spurs looked menacing on the break, the two best early chances fell to Newcastle’s recalled Dwight Gayle.

First he connected with Jonjo Shelvey’s lofted cross but his header was a little underpowered and Hugo Lloris was able to parry it. The rebound, fell, conveniently to Gayle’s feet and a goal beckoned but, instead, Lloris smothered the shot and Mourinho breathed marginally easier.

Newcastle though looked a different side back in their default formation and, with Davinson Sánchez having a few wobbly defensive moments, Bruce’s players briefly took control. They deserved to take what would prove a strictly temporary lead when an unmarked Joelinton swept an assured 10 yard shot beyond Lloris after meeting Sean Longstaff’s low centre at the end of a move initiated when Ritchie enjoyed the better of a challenge with Pierre-Emile Højbjerg.

Unfortunately for Newcastle all that good work came undone barely two minutes later when Giovani Lo Celso slid a dangerous ball across the box. Martin Dubravka looked to have it covered but Emil Krafth decided to attempt to clear only to miss the ball and get in his goalkeeper’s way. Amid the confusion the ball ricocheted to Kane who needed no invitation to lash it into the back of the net.

It was not long before Kane scored again. This time Tanguy Ndombele’s through ball bisected Newcastle’s backline and picked out a just onside England centre-forward on the right hand side of the area.

All that remained was for the scorer to take a steadying touch before directing a perfectly calibrated, angled, shot beyond Dubravka’s grasp. Kane struck his 162nd Premier League goal at such pace, that it was virtually unstoppable.

In between scoring Mourinho’s No 10 provoked increasing self-doubt between Bruce’s defenders as he regularly ghosted between them with glorious ease, thereby stripping the sheen from a much-improved home performance.

At least Newcastle’s manager could take some heart from the moment when Jacob Murphy’s low ball from the right appeared certain to precipitate a goal from Gayle only for Joe Rodon to slide in with an impressive late interception.

Mourinho introduced Son Heung-min at the interval, withdrawing Carlos Vinícius while Bruce waited until the 70th minute to introduce Allan Saint-Maximin following his groin injury induced absence.

By then Miguel Almirón had cleared off the line to deny Japhet Tanganga a headed goal after Dubravka punched Lo Celso’s inswinging corner.

As the minutes passed Spurs looked to be heading for fourth place and would surely have secured it had Kane not dragged a shot on to the outside of a post with Dubravka beaten,

It proved a costly miss as, shortly afterwards, Willock, newly liberated from the bench, equalised.

With Saint-Maximin’s dribble having left Mourinho’s rearguard in some disarray, Ritchie was able to curl in a cross, Joelinton nodded back across goal before Almirón saw his own header scrambled off the line. The ball travelled only as far as Willock who slammed it past Lloris from six yards. - Guardian

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