Newcastle United rout Norwich City for first win of the season
Georginio Wijnaldum scores four as Steve McClaren’s side put six past Canaries
Georginio Wijnaldum scored four for Newcastle United as they routed Norwich City 6-2 at St James’ Park. Photograph: PA
Newcastle United 6 Norwich City 2
When the final whistle blew, Steve McClaren looked slightly stunned. A little reminiscent of a man who has finally passed his driving test after countless attempts and is too emotionally exhausted to celebrate, Newcastle United’s manager walked out onto the pitch in an apparent daze.
As the weeks have passed and the nights lengthened there have been a couple of constants at Newcastle United: the team have kept losing and McClaren has remained commendably calm and, outwardly at least, good humoured.
Finally the former England coach’s patience received its reward in the form of a dramatic first Premier League win of what had threatened to turn into a trial of a season. If the 90th minute prompted a sense of utter relief, McClaren, perhaps too drained to celebrate, could barely raise a half-smile, let alone a celebratory fist pump.
No matter; the fading strains of Blaydon Races served as reminder that Georginio Wijnaldum had scored four goals, Moussa Sissoko created four and Aleksandar Mitrovic, who registered number five in a fabulous win, really looked to have the part of a proper Newcastle centre-forward nailed.
Yet on an afternoon that had begun with Norwich City determined to cling onto their reputation as away day specialists was not quite as straightforward as the scoreline might suggest.
For once though it began well for the home side. A promising Newcastle attack had looked like evaporating when Mitrovic found his path to goal blocked but then in surged Sissoko to salvage the situation. When the Frenchman shaped to shoot Norwich were duped but instead Sissoko slipped the ball to Wijnaldum who showed commendable composure and subtlety to place his shot in the bottom corner.
Newcastle seemed largely in control but events rarely run smoothly for McClaren’s team. Sure enough, a reminder of their enduring fallibility arrived when, almost out of nothing, Robbie Brady unleashed a 30 yard shot that crashed against a post.
That warning was swiftly followed by the equaliser. When Martin Olsson crossed impeccably from the left Dieumerci Mbokani, on loan from Dynamo Kiev, volleyed beyond Rob Elliot from close range. It was a good goal but its origins were rooted in slapdash defending on a day when, unusually, Daryl Janmaat was struggling at right-back. Maybe this uncharacteristically shabby display had something to do with Sissoko and Wijnaldum having swapped flanks fairly early on and Janmaat not receiving the protection he is customarily given by the former?
Whatever the reason – and Brady was also very much part of the equation – Newcastle wobbled. With Mbokani impressing as both a physically imposing and highly mobile centre forward, it took another intervention from Sissoko to settle Newcastle’s nerves. So often an underachiever in recent months, he was enjoying a fine game and his wonderfully whipped in cross soon created Newcastle’s next goal. Once again, the scorer was Wijnaldum who took advantage of slack marking – Steven Whittaker will not relish watching the replays – to steal in front of his supposed minder and dispatch a glancing header beyond John Ruddy.
Temporarily in the ascendant, Newcastle extended their lead. Created by Sissoko – this was becoming quite a theme – the goal owed much to the persistence of Ayoze Pérez. With Mitrovic’s decoy run having deceived Alex Neil’s defence, the Spanish striker advanced only to find his initial shot blocked by Olsson. Regaining possession Pérez made no mistake at the second attempt.
If McClaren felt insulated by a reassuring, long-absent, sense of relief it was not destined to linger. It is a long time since concentration has ranked among Newcastle’s fortes and, by way of emphasising the point, they quickly lost focus.
At times Norwich’s penchant for passing the ball around at the back prefaced problems for Neil’s players but going forward it was often a different matter. Appropriately enough a seven-man passing move concluded with Nathan Redmond finding himself unmarked, having connected with Olsson’s cross, directing a cushioned volley beyond the helpless Elliot.
It was Redmond’s fourth goal in nine Premier League games this season and reinforced suggestions that he is well on the way to fulfilling his long vaunted potential.
He certainly seemed undaunted by an early, reckless, tackle from Cheik Tioté that brought the Ivorian – recalled to first team arms by McClaren just in time to renew hostilities with Lee Cattermole at Sunderland next Sunday – his habitual booking.
Perhaps fearful of his side being reduced to 10 men Newcastle’s manager replaced Tioté with Vurnon Anita for the second half. That period saw McClaren’s team start to drop alarmingly deep as Norwich appeared to deploy every single item in a an often highly technical armoury in pursuit of an equaliser.
Then came the watershed. Finally breaking forward on the counterattack, Sissoko’s chip played in Mitrovic. Having chested the ball down the Serbia striker defied Ruddy courtesy of a fabulous volley. Down in the visiting technical area, Neil, ever intense, cursed before folding his arms a little tighter.
A measure of atonement soon followed for Janmaat, his excellent cross being headed home by Wijnaldum at the far post. As he celebrated becoming the first Newcastle player to score a Premier League hat-trick since Demba Ba – remember him? – against Stoke City back in October 2011, McClaren, finally able to relax, shared a joke with his assistant, Paul Simpson.
Neither man will have been too amused by the defending which led to the ever dangerous Redmond subsequently hitting a post but it was Wijnaldum’s day and his stunning fourth was about to arrive. It stemmed from another counterattack and the Dutchman taking aim from 25 yards leaving the ball, possibly assisted by a slight deflection off Whittaker, to arc over Ruddy en route to the top corner.