Newcastle 1-0 Crystal Palace: Mikel Merino's late header sinks bottom-club Palace
By Michael Hincks
Last Updated: 21/10/17 6:53pm
Mikel Merino's late header handed Newcastle a narrow 1-0 victory over bottom-club Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon.
Palace's search for a first away goal this season goes on, with Roy Hodgson's side failing to record a single shot on target at St James' Park despite dominating for large parts of the game.
Newcastle burst into life with 20 minutes to go, and substitute Merino fortuitously headed in his first goal (86) for the club to send them up to sixth in the Premier League - a timely boost with Amanda Stavelely's takeover edging closer.
The loss leaves Palace rooted to the bottom of the table, as they remain without a point on the road this campaign.
Newcastle: Elliot (6), Yedlin (7), Lascelles (7), Lejeune (7), Manquillo (6), Shelvey (7), Hayden (6), Ritchie (7), Perez (5), Atsu (6), Joselu (4)
Subs: Merino (7), Diame (6), Mitrovic (6)
Crystal Palace: Speroni (6), Ward (6), Dann (7), Sakho (7), Van Aanholt (6), McArthur (7), Cabaye (6), Milivojevic (6), Schlupp (6), Townsend (7), Zaha (7)
Subs: Loftus-Cheek (6), Sako (N/A)
Man of the match: DeAndre Yedlin
In a first half of few chances, referee Stuart Atwell faced a big decision when former Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye went in strongly on DeAndre Yedlin. The official opted for a yellow despite the home fans' vehement protests.
Wilfried Zaha came closest to breaking the deadlock before half-time, but he sent his header wide from Andros Townsend's cross.
Four yellow cards and zero shots on target summed up a scrappy opening 45 minutes, and it took until the 73rd minute before a goalkeeper was forced to make a save.
Both sides fielded unchanged XIs from their previous outings. Dwight Gayle (calf) missed out on facing his former employers, while Wayne Hennessey and Ruben Loftus-Cheek returned to the bench for Palace.
It was Julian Speroni who was called into action as Newcastle upped the ante, but the Palace goalkeeper comfortably kept out Mo Diame's attempt before palming away Jonjo Shelvey's effort.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek could have stolen it for Palace after replacing a disappointed Zaha, but his cross-shot neither troubled Rob Elliot nor found Patrick van Aanholt at the back post.
And with four minutes left on the clock, Palace were made to pay when Matt Ritchie's cross was actually headed by James McArthur against the head of Merino, which in turn sent the ball beyond the helpless Speroni.
Merino wheeled away to celebrate his first goal since netting for Osasuna in June 2016, ending Newcastle's three-game winless run as a result.
- Rafael Benitez has never lost a home league game in English football against a coach who has also managed the English national team (W17 D4).
- Crystal Palace have failed to score in their last seven Premier League away games - their longest such run in the top-flight.
- Mikel Merino scored his first ever Premier League goal in what was his ninth appearance in the competition.
- The Magpies have lost only one of their last 10 Premier League games on home soil (W6 D3 L1).
Man of the match - DeAndre Yedlin
The Newcastle right-back had a busy afternoon at St James' Park. The American withstood a heavy challenge from Cabaye in the first half, and went on to win two-thirds of his duels for the hosts (six of nine), more than any other Newcastle player. He also chipped in with two tackles and four clearances, keeping Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha at bay and helping his side to just a third clean sheet of the season.
Rafa Benitez: "We needed to create something more. We couldn't do it but in the end we score from a set-piece, and they can make the difference.
"In this case it was a little but lucky, but Merino had the determination and that was key in the end."
Roy Hodgson: "We are missing Christian Benteke of course, who is a classic centre-forward and a goalscorer. Hopefully it won't be too long before he comes back and maybe that will help us.
"I must say that Zaha and Townsend did a sterling job up front, they might not have scored but they came pretty close on a number of occasions."
Newcastle travel to Burnley for Monday Night Football on October 30, live on Sky Sports Premier League, while Crystal Palace are in Carabao Cup action at Bristol City on Tuesday before hosting fellow strugglers West Ham next Saturday at 3pm.