Dwight Gayle

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Aston Villa comeback stuns West Brom in playoffs

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Aston Villa beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 in their Championship playoff semifinal first leg on Saturday, as the home side launched a stunning late comeback at Villa Park.

The local derby swung in West Brom’s favor early on, as Dwight Gayle finished clinically but then a stunner from substitute Conor Hourihane was followed by a Tammy Abraham penalty kick moments later to send Villa Park wild.

To make matters worse for West Brom, their top goalscorer Gayle was sent off in the closing stages after a late challenge on Villa goalkeeper Jed Steer.

Villa or West Brom will play the winner of Leeds United or Derby County in the playoff final at Wembley on May 27 for a place in the Premier League.

After a fast start, West Brom went so close to opening the scoring, as Jay Rodriguez’s superb curling shot was tipped onto the crossbar by Steer.

At the other end Abraham sent an acrobatic effort just over, then Villa made a huge mistake and they were punished.

Glenn Whelan gave the ball away in a key area and Gayle pounced to smash home the opener at the Holte End to put West Brom 1-0 up. Villa struggled to get going again in the first half after that error, with West Brom dangerous on the break.

Abraham went close twice at the start of the second half as Villa pushed hard to get level with Jack Grealish leading the charge.

Villa eventually levelled 15 minutes from time as Hourihane smashed home a stunning strike with his left foot after Grealish found him unmarked 25 yards out.

It got even better for Villa moments later as Kieran Gibbs caught Grealish in the box and the home side were awarded a penalty kick.

Abraham stepped up to slot home the spot kick to give Villa a precious 2-1 lead ahead of the second leg at the Hawthorns on Tuesday.

However, Abraham did push over Mason Holgate in the box late on and was lucky to not concede a penalty kick.

And West Brom then made their task even tougher as their top goalscorer Gayle was shown a second yellow card for fouling Steer and will now miss the second leg.

Newcastle sign Japanese striker Muto

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Fans of Newcastle United and Rafael Benitez rejoice…

You’ve signed a new player.

Newcastle have added Japanese striker Yoshinori Muto on an initial four-year deal from Mainz with the transfer fee reported to be in the region of $12.7 million.

Muto, 26, has long been linked with a move to the Magpies and he secured the deal on Thursday after a work permit was granted.

Speaking about his move to the Premier League after he was part of Japan’s run to the Round of 16 at the World Cup this summer, Muto was delighted to arrive at a sleeping giant.

“I am very happy to be a player for Newcastle United. I am really looking forward to playing in front of the fans,” Muto said. “As the first Japanese Newcastle United player, I am honoured to be a player for such a big club. I hope to achieve good results – that is what I am here to do. I would like to perform well and leave my name in Newcastle’s history.”

Muto scored 23 goals in 71 appearances from Mainz over the past three seasons in the Bundesliga, while he’s scored twice in 25 outings for Japan on the international stage.

Rafael Benitez bemoaned Newcastle’s lack of transfer activity this summer after they were hammered 4-0 by Portuguese outside Braga in preseason on Wednesday.

Muto is their fifth new signing, although two of the new boys are Kenedy (on a season-long loan from Chelsea) and Martin Dubravka who spent the second half of last season on loan at St James’ Park. South Korean midfielder Ki and Swiss center back Fabian Schar are the two other summer additions.

With Mike Ashley seemingly reluctant to splash the cash the once again, Benitez at least has another attacking option for this season.

Ayoze Perez, Dwight Gayle and Joselu are the other forwards at Benitez’s disposal but they managed a grand total of just 18 PL goals between them last season.

With Aleksandar Mitrovic sold to PL new boys Fulham after his stellar loan spell for the Cottagers in the Championship last season, fans will see that this move for Muto has been funded by a departure rather than Ashley’s cash being spent.

If the Magpies don’t get off to a good start (they have Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City in their first four PL encounters) then Benitez may walk away from the project as he continues to be frustrated by the lack of transfer funds.

There’s no doubt he did a splendid job to get Newcastle into 10th place last season in their first campaign back in the PL but there is an opportunity for them to be so much more than just a team who sits back, defends and grab goals from set pieces to sit pretty in midtable.

Newcastle should be challenging for a spot in the top six but unless more players arrive before next Thursday’s deadline they could be in for a relegation scrap.

 

Analyzing Benitez’s risk in reported Mitrovic out, Rondon in moves

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As Newcastle cut ties with Aleksandar Mitrovic ahead of the Serbian striker Fulham move and Salomon Rondon seemingly moves into his old squad spot, it’s worth asking, at least in theory, whether the Magpies can defy the age math of the move.

There’s a load of well-earned respect amongst the Geordies for manager Rafa Benitez, who has rarely had time or patience for the productive but combustible Mitrovic.

[ MORE: Pochettino hopeful for signings as injuries pile up, deadline looms ]

Still just 23, the powerful forward had an amazing half-season on loan at Fulham and was a handful for defenses at the World Cup.

But Benitez has kept a short leash on Mitrovic since he took the reigns at St. James Park. Mitrovic scored 12 goals in 17 Championship matches for Fulham after scoring just five times in 31 appearances between the Championship and Premier League for Newcastle from 2015-17 (His first year at Newcastle was a nine-goal, four-assist, two red card campaign under Steve McClaren and then Benitez).

Given Mitrovic’s young age and success rate at Craven Cottage, there’s no reason for Fulham not to spend the reported $28 million.

The Magpies are expected to use a lot of that money to sign big West Bromwich Albion forward Rondon, who has scored 24 goals in three seasons as the focal point of one of the Premier League’s most conservative attacks.

Newcastle’s bet has to be that Benitez believes that feeding pieces around Rondon — Ayoze Perez, Yoshimori Muti, Matt Ritchie, Jonjo Shelvey, DeAndre Yedlin and Kenedy — are going to produce more feast-able material for the big man than the Baggies’ recent pieces (Chris Brunt, Matty Phillips, Kieran Gibbs, Jay Rodriguez, Jake Livermore, and James McClean).

Mitrovic played with such fury that cards were never too far away. Rondon is no shrinking violet, but has only taken one red in his career (going head-first into Bournemouth opposition, who was doing the same).

This is a pretty big risk for Benitez, who is one even marginally-big Mitrovic season away from having a $40-plus million striker on his hands. But Newcastle owner Mike Ashley’s stingy nature has forced Benitez to find creative solutions to his squad needs.

Rondon is a short-term fix and the striker market is never going to be low cost, but the Magpies do have plenty of crossers and playmakers should they stay healthy. Might Rondon be the tonic for an attack dreadfully shy of finishers last season? He’s no doubt an upgrade on Joselu and Dwight Gayle, but that’s not saying a ton.

It’s not a big gamble, but admittedly it’s a gamble. Rondon can be a 10-goal man with terrific hold-up play for teammates, but a behaved Mitrovic has 15-20 in his locker. That’s asking a lot though.

Newcastle United smash listless Chelsea, finish 10th

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  • Chelsea winless in last 5 at St. James’ Park
  • Newcastle has won four of those
  • Perez scores twice
  • Gayle opens scoring

Ayoze Perez’s two-goal day led Newcastle United past listless Chelsea as the Magpies clinched a top-half finish with a 3-0 win at St. James’ Park on Championship Sunday.

Dwight Gayle also scored for the Magpies, who finish 10th with 44 points. Chelsea will end the season fifth with 70 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Newcastle’s fifth minute free kick came from a promising angle, but Chelsea cleared the effort with a powerful header.

Jonjo Shelvey stung a ninth minute effort at Thibaut Courtois, but the Belgian parried for Cesar Azpilicueta’s clearance.

And Mo Diame forced a similar save, though his rip appeared to be going wide of the goal. A short corner was sent away, but Newcastle came back.

Newcastle indeed opened the scoring, with Jacob Murphy‘s intense pressure forcing Courtois to slap the ball onto the path of Gayle for 1-0. And Shelvey sent a shot just wide moments later!

Joselu took Gayle’s place early in the second half. It was Chelsea who got its first shot on target of the match when Olivier Giroud forced Martin Dubravka into an outstanding tip save.

Shelvey’s long drive was deflected in by Perez to make it 2-0, and Newcastle made it 3-0 (!!!) on a free kick. Florian Lejeune headed to the back post to square for Perez’s tap-in.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

AT HALF: Salah sets record, Kane scores, Chelsea absent (video)

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There are a few surprising performances on Championship Sunday, namely Chelsea’s lack of one at Newcastle United.

[ STREAM: All 10 Championship Sunday matches ]

Newcastle United 1-0 Chelsea [STREAM]

In 2015, Dwight Gayle‘s two goals for Crystal Palace in the last 10 minutes of a 3-3 draw with Liverpool crushed the Reds’ title hopes. His early Newcastle goal Sunday helped insure Liverpool’s Top Four hopes three years later, and the Magpies are dominating the Blues.

Southampton 0-0 Manchester City [STREAM]

If you’d hazard a guess which two of the 10 morning matches would be nil-nil, this would not be atop the list…

 

Swansea City 1-2 Stoke City [STREAM]

Andy King made a dent on the scoreboard with his goal in the first quarter hour, but Badou Ndiaye leveled the scoring as one of the few bright spots of Stoke’s relegation campaign may be bidding goodbye with a goal. Peter Crouch has it 2-1 at the break.

Liverpool 2-0 Brighton and Hove Albion [STREAM]

Mohamed Salah has set a new Premier League record with his 32nd marker of the league season. Dejan Lovren has more or less grabbed the permanent marker to write Liverpool’s name in next season’s Champions League.

Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Leicester City [STREAM]

Riyad Mahrez cued up Jamie Vardy for an early goal, but Spurs answered in no time through that man Harry Kane. Mahrez scored a goal of his own as two teams with nothing to lose are promising more entertainment at Wembley.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Huddersfield Town 0-1 Arsenal [STREAM]

Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang has scored for the Gunners in Arsene Wenger‘s final match in charge.

Manchester United 1-0 Watford [STREAM]

Marcus Rashford on the board for the Red Devils on a play began by Michael Carrick and helped along by Juan Mata. That’s why Mourinho plays Lukaku so much (#jab).

West Ham United 1-0 Everton [STREAM]

Manuel Lanzini has Big Sam’s old club leading his new club. Fitting.

Burnley 1-0 Bournemouth [STREAM

That Kiwi man, Chris Wood, has another goal for the Europa League-bound Clarets.

Crystal Palace 0-0 West Bromwich Albion [STREAM]

…though the second of the morning’s nil-nils is a little more predictable.