Mikel Merino was the hero for Newcastle as his 86th minute header secured an important 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Newcastle United 1 Crystal Palace 0
Merino heads in late winner
Merino netted the only goal of the game to lift his side into six place, on 14 points, as Palace remained rooted to the foot of the table, with just three points.
— Premier League (@premierleague) October 21, 2017
Newcastle started the more comfortable of the two sides as they passed the ball around in the opening exchanges.
Christian Atsu was lively early on as he looked to whip in crosses from wide areas.
Yohan Cabaye had a 17th minute shot blocked en route to goal before Robbie Elliot denied Wilfried Zaha after he had cut inside on his right foot before letting rip.
Jeffery Schlupp then fired wide from a tight angle for Palace before a soft appeal from Zaha for a 27th minute penalty as he went down easily in the box from a non-existent challenge from Jonjo Shelvey.
Atsu hit the side netting after storming into the box on 35 minutes before Joselu headed clear when James McArthur looked set to head in a Cabaye free-kick.
The best chance of the first half though fell to Zaha at the back post after some super work from Andros Townsend, but he only succeeded in heading wide of the target.
Patrick Van Aanholt was offside as he fired wide at the start of the second half that was dominated early on by Palace.
And with the tide turning for his side, Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez replaced Isaac Hayden with Mikel Merino, on 56 minutes, and Mohamed Diame for Ayoze Perez with 66 minutes played.
Aleksandar Mitrovic, meanwhile replaced Joselu with 78 minutes gone, while Palace’s substitutes worked to less effect, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek on for Zaha on 77 minutes and Bakary Sako replacing McArthur two minutes from time.
Van Aanholt should have done better with a shot he scuffed for a throw-in as Cabaye wasted a good opportunity to score when he headed over from a corner on 63 minutes.
Townsend was next to fire over before Diame forced Palace stopper Julian Speroni into a good save.
Speroni was properly tested with a stinging Shelvey effort that he ultimately palmed to safety, before Sakho did well to clear inside his six-yard box.
Newcastle were desperately searching for a winner as the match drew to a close, and were duly rewarded as Merino found himself in the right place to nod past Speroni for his first Magpies goal, after Ritchie’s corner was headed on to the goalscorer by McArthur.
It was a poor match for Newcastle, with Palace arguably the better side, however, the hosts will be indebted to Merino for his late but vital contribution.
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) October 21, 2017