Perez earns Newcastle victory over Huddersfield
Ayoze Perez’s late goal gave Newcastle a victory that moved them a big step closer towards Premier League safety and left Huddersfield in danger of dropping back into the Championship.
The hosts had looked like being frustrated as they missed a number of chances to take the lead early on against the cautious Terriers.
Matt Ritchie was denied one-on-one by Huddersfield keeper Jonas Lossl before Dwight Gayle saw his lob drop just wide of the post.
Only Malaga (20) have failed to score in more games than Huddersfield (18) this season in Europe’s top five leagues and they rarely threatened in this encounter.
But it looked like they would hold on for an important point until Perez turned home Kenedy’s smart cross in the final few minutes to secure a win that lifts Newcastle to 12th in the table and seven points above the relegation zone.
Huddersfield, meanwhile, remain three points above 18th-placed Southampton, who lost at West Ham, and are now without a win in their last four Premier League games.
Almost time to pop champagne for Newcastle
Newcastle went into the recent international break on the back of an impressive 3-0 home win against Southampton, a result that gave their fans real hope of their side guaranteeing Premier League football for next season.
However, there was a three-week gap between the Saints game and this one against Huddersfield, a break that some may have feared would disrupt their momentum.
That was far from the case.
The hosts dominated from kick-off until the final whistle, pinning Huddersfield back in their own half for almost the entire game. Only poor finishing by Gayle and some decent saves by Lossl kept the scores level heading into the final 10 minutes.
Newcastle had lost only one of their previous six Premier League matches before Huddersfield’s visit and the arrival of Kenedy on loan from Chelsea has been a key part in that upturn in form.
Once again he played a decisive role in this win, keeping his calm in front of goal to cross for Perez when the temptation could have been to go for glory, a decision that may well have secured another season in the top flight for Newcastle.
Analysis – Shelvey should go to World Cup
Former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer on Match of the Day: “The midfield was where the game was won and lost. Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame bossed the midfield. They work so well as a partnership.
“Shelvey was quicker, brighter and sharper than anyone else on the pitch. His passing again was superb. It was a very well deserved and big three points for Newcastle.”
Former England and Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy: “In terms of opening up a packed defence, Shelvey is the best England have got. I understand the issues with the other side of his game, discipline and defensive responsibility, but I would be taking him to the World Cup.”
Toothless Terriers need to find their bite… quickly
Huddersfield have only spent one week in the bottom three all season but if they do not develop more bite soon they could drop back into it at just the wrong time.
They have now failed to find the back of the net in five of their last six games as they once again paid the price for a cautious approach in a game that required more attacking intent.
The Terriers finished without a single shot on target as familiar faults were exposed. Their solitary striker, Laurent Depoitre, showed plenty of endeavour but his task was a thankless one as he often found himself isolated in the Newcastle half.
In fact, Huddersfield have not scored with any of their last 52 shots in the Premier League since Steve Mounie’s goal against West Bromwich Albion in February, having played 394 minutes in the division since then.
David Wagner’s side have never played a system that relies on creating lots of chances but it is worrying for the visitors that the fast-paced counter-attacking football and high-pressing game that helped them make the most of their few opportunities is now rarely on show.
Only the poor form of those sides below Huddersfield is providing the Terriers with some breathing space but upcoming home games against Watford and Everton are looking increasingly crucial to determining whether they will avoid an immediate return to the Championship.
Man of the match – Kenedy (Newcastle)
‘We needed to win’ – what they said
Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez: “It was an important game and we needed to win. They are a good team, well organised. We didn’t take our chances and in the second half there was a risk we could be caught, but we stayed calm.
“Ayoze Perez was doing a good job. He needed to stay calm in that position, move around the position and take his chance.
“It was a great atmosphere and the team and fans together are stronger. Forty points is the figure we are looking for and that’s it.”
Huddersfield boss David Wagner: “It’s a disappointing result for us but it’s my job to analyse this in the right way. Our idea was to frustrate them and sit deeper to minimise their clear-cut chances and hurt them on the counter-attack.
“In the first half Newcastle had good opportunities but in the second half I thought it was working for us. We had a big opportunity with Scott Malone at the final whistle, we didn’t use the chances and this is why we lost the game.
“The attitude, fighting spirit and how they followed the game plan was fantastic. I think we were worth a point.”
Best since Pards – the stats
- Newcastle are now unbeaten in six straight home league games (won three, drawn three), their best such run in the top flight since December 2014 under Alan Pardew (also six).
- Indeed, the Magpies have won three consecutive games without conceding at St James’ Park in the Premier League for the first time since November 2014. They had only kept three clean sheets in their first 13 home league games this season before this run.
- Huddersfield Town have now drawn a blank in 12 separate away games in the Premier League this season, just one short of the single-season record (13) for failing to score on the most occasions on the road in the competition’s history, jointly held by Norwich City in 1994-95, Southampton in 1998-99 and Middlesbrough in 2002-03.
- Ayoze Perez has scored his first Premier League goal at St James’ Park since 5 March 2016 against Bournemouth, 756 days ago.
- Kenedy has been directly involved in four goals in his first four home league games for Newcastle United (two goals, two assists).
- Martin Dubravka has kept three clean sheets in his first five Premier League games for Newcastle. No other goalkeeper has more for the club in the top flight this season (Rob Elliot three from 16 appearances, Karl Darlow two from 10).
Newcastle head to Leicester on Saturday, 7 April (15:00 BST), while Huddersfield are at Brighton at the same time.