Newcastle’s first home goal in over five hours of play was not enough to earn victory as Premier League basement boys Swansea held them to a frustrating 1-1 draw at St James’ Park on Saturday.
With some tough fixtures on the horizon, a point will not satisfy Rafa Benitez, as his frustration in the transfer market continues.
Joselu’s goal could prove crucial in the long term, though. Here are four talking points.
Joselu could be back in favour again
Before Saturday’s game, Newcastle hadn’t scored in five of their last six home games, but they have now. In truth, this issue has been plaguing them all season, no matter where they are playing. No matter the manager, nor the era, the Magpies’ performance can more often than not be dictated by how they start. Their passing was crisp and intensity strong from the off; creating chances wasn’t as much an issue as it was against Brighton, but putting them away was as problematic as it was at Stoke.
Ayoze Perez and Dwight Gayle, playing up front for the home side, where this week’s prime culprits in front of goal. The latter was first up, heading yards wide from a cross unmarked in the box. Perez, fed by Gayle, later shot straight at Swans stopper Lukasz Fabianski, also inside the area. Paul Dummett also shot over, while Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu were lively as always. Gayle saw yet another goal disallowed for offside, albeit after a correct call. Joselu replaced him after the break and scored a vital equaliser just as the fans, who had been supportive throughout, were growing frustrated and nervous, ending a run of over five hours without a home goal.
Carlos Carvahal has given Swansea a jolt of hope
Under Paul Clement, Swansea were looking completely hopeless and nailed on for relegation this season. Carvahal’s arrival did not drum up support for a revival, but he certainly has made a difference in his short reign so far. That much was evident in the second half when, after weathering a storm, the visitors began to grow in confidence and fully deserved to open the scoring on the balance of play; Jordan Ayew worked tirelessly and impressed in a line-up, without either Tammy Abraham or the benched Wilfried Bony, which looked rather lacking in intent.
Carvahal, who had won his previous three meetings with Newcastle, can count himself and his team unlucky that they didn’t receive a first half penalty after Mohamed Diame was lucky to get away with a handball that would have seem him sent off. Bony had an effort cleared off the line in the last minute, too.
Ayoze Perez’s mini-resurgence continues
The Spaniard is playing his best football of the season and deserves a lot of credit for adding a little more quality to his regular endeavour. Perez netted a second half winner at Stoke and grabbed a brace in the FA Cup win at home to Luton Town last week. Newcastle have lacked a player to link the play in the final third; although he hardly set the bar high earlier in the season, he was at the heart of everything in the first half.
It doesn’t look like Benitez is going to get much money to spend in the transfer market; he still doesn’t know his budget almost two weeks into the window. Should the worst happen and no new players arrive, the second half of the season will get even tougher and the likes of Perez will be even more important.
Ki vital to any hopes for the Swans
Ki Sung-yeong is a vital player for Swansea and he showed it today. The South Korean midfielder gave them a foothold in the game throughout, but grew into it more as his side did after the break. He even had a chance or two of his own.
A lot of the criticism of Swansea surrounds their apparent abandonment of the identity that saw them promoted in the first place. It is true that they no longer play as fluently in possession as they once did, but Ki can unlock a few doors. Carvahal does have a tough job on his hands, but if he is to complete a miracle, he’ll need Ki to play a central role, as he did at St James’ Park.