A late goal from substitute Mikel Merino ensured Newcastle United maintained their encouraging start to the campaign with victory over basement boys Crystal Palace. Amid talk of a takeover, the Magpies climbed to sixth in the standings with their fourth win from nine outings.
Rafa Benitez’s men were forced to work hard against a Palace side that stunned Chelsea last weekend, but this result leaves the Eagles rooted to the foot of the table, already five points adrift of safety.
Here are three talking points…
Newcastle United belong in the Premier League
For a club of their enormity, Newcastle have spent too many seasons outside the top-flight in the past two decades. It’s too early in the campaign to say whether Benitez is bringing the good times back to St James’ Park, but the initial signs are promising. After steering them to the Championship title last term, he has continued in the same vein.
Premier League survival is the primary objective, but the club’s passionate and optimistic supporters will believe that a top-half finish is possible. That may depend on harmony at boardroom level and the revelation that Mike Ashley is actively looking to sell the club has been well received, if it means Benitez is given funds to strengthen his resources from new investors.
Crystal Palace are more resolute under Roy Hodgson
Crystal Palace’s eighth defeat of the season was a tough one to stomach for Roy Hodgson, who would have been delighted to have claimed a point following their sensational victory over Chelsea a week ago. It was not to be for his side though, who succumbed with four minutes left on the clock.
With only three points to their name, the outlook is bleak. But boss Hodgson appears to have organised his players and they were very competitive for much of the time against Newcastle. Now he needs to find a way to combine defensive solidity with more expansive play in attack. Hodgson is under no illusions as to the scale of the task before him, but it is far too early to write off Palace as relegation certainties.
Yohan Cabaye fortunate to escape a red card
Newcastle were furious when Yohan Cabaye escaped with only a yellow card for a shocking challenge on DeAndre Yedlin in the first half. Replays showed that the Magpies had every reason to feel aggrieved. Cabaye, a former Newcastle player, was extremely fortunate that Stuart Attwell chose to be lenient after a needless lunge that could easily have broken Yedlin’s leg.
Referees have a tough job and are only able to view every incident once, in real time. But Attwell got this one wrong. That Cabaye immediately apologised for his two-footed tackle suggested he was concerned his punishment would be greater than a caution. Had Newcastle not gone on to win the game, greater attention would have been paid to this incident.