Newcastle bounce back from coronavirus shutdown in style

Miguel Almiron and Dwight Gayle get the goals at St James’ Park

Newcastle United’s Dwight Gayle heads home their second goal during the  Premier League  match  against West Brom at St James’ Park. Photograph: Stu Forster/AFP via Getty Images

Newcastle United’s Dwight Gayle heads home their second goal during the Premier League match against West Brom at St James’ Park. Photograph: Stu Forster/AFP via Getty Images

 

Newcastle United 2 West Brom 1

Miguel Almiron needed just 19 seconds to deliver a stunning antidote to Newcastle’s coronavirus crisis as the Magpies shrugged off struggling West Brom to claim the points at St James’ Park.

Almiron coolly slotted past Baggies goalkeeper Sam Johnstone before former Baggies star Dwight Gayle clambered off the bench to head an 82nd-minute winner after Darnell Furlong had hauled the Baggies level.

The 2-1 win provided timely relief for Steve Bruce after a nightmare fortnight in which an outbreak of the virus closed the club’s training ground and postponed last week’s scheduled trip to Aston Villa.

As it turned out, Bruce was forced to make relatively minimal changes to his line-up with Federico Fernandez, Javier Manquillo and Fabian Schar the notable absences from his matchday squad.

And his patched-up side still proved too good for the ailing Baggies, who staged a sluggish response to last week’s home hammering by Crystal Palace, then failed to take advantage when the hosts began to wilt.

Almiron’s quickfire opener arrived after the visitors immediately gave up possession from kick-off, allowing Jamal Lewis to loft a long ball to Matt Ritchie, who brushed past Branislav Ivanovic on the left.

Ritchie’s cross into the box was superbly laid off by Joelinton, finding the Paraguayan in space to slot home an effort which was allowed to stand after a brief VAR review for an alleged handball.

Slaven Bilic’s men, and Ivanovic in particular, were having a shocker and Almiron sprung their defence again in the 16th minute but was forced to a tight angle and drilled a low shot straight at Johnstone.

Semi Ajayi had West Brom’s first chance when his effort from a corner was blocked in the box, and Matt Phillips’s long-range lash seemed to illustrate the evident lack of confidence in the visitors’ frontline.

It was an issue mirrored at the back for Albion, with Joelinton left unmarked and close to heading in a Jonjo Shelvey corner, then the Brazilian breezing past Ivanovic before firing low at Johnstone when he ought to have squared for the unmarked Callum Wilson.

Phillips tried again from long range in the 37th minute with the same result, then Karlan Grant sprung the Magpies’ offside trap but his low cross was dealt with well by Emile Krafth.

The visitors had their best chance just before the break when a Phillips cross was half-cleared and fell to Conor Gallagher, who poked wide when he really should have hit the target from 12 yards.

West Brom came out firing at the start of the second half and were level within five minutes when Furlong met Phillips’s cross from the left with a blazing low drive past Karl Darlow.

As Newcastle began to suffer from their time off the training ground, confidence surged through the Baggies who had further chances through Gallagher and Charlie Austin, both of whom drew saves out of the increasingly busy Darlow.

The Baggies had the busy Phillips to thank in the 72nd minute for a brilliant intervention to head an effort from Gayle off the line with Johnstone beaten.

Gayle had injected much-needed urgency into the Newcastle frontline and he made no mistake with his second chance eight minutes from time, heading home a brilliant cross from fellow substitute Jacob Murphy.

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