LONDON: Newcastle moved a step closer to the Premier League after staging a dramatic fightback to clinch a crucial 2-1 win over Championship promotion rivals Brighton on Tuesday.
Rafael Benitez’s side climbed above Brighton into first place in the second tier table thanks to a two-goal burst in the final nine minutes at the Amex Stadium.
Trailing to Glenn Murray’s first half penalty, the Magpies equalised through Mohamed Diame’s fortuitous effort before Ayoze Perez bagged the winner just a minute before full-time. A 12th win in their last 17 away games puts Newcastle firmly on course for promotion.
Benitez’s men are two points ahead of second placed Brighton and eight in front of third placed Huddersfield as they look to secure an immediate return to the Premier League following last season’s relegation.
It was a bitter blow for Brighton, who are eyeing a place in the top-flight for the first time since 1982-83 after missing out in the play-off semi-finals last season.
But despite the frustrating setback, Brighton boss Chris Hughton, who led Newcastle to the Championship title in 2009-10, knows his team still control their own destiny in the battle for automatic promotion.
Murray had only one goal in his last nine Championship outings, but it didn’t take long for the veteran striker to net his 17th of the season.
The breakthrough came in the 14th minute when Ciaran Clark and Murray tangled in the area as they awaited a corner. Referee Bobby Madley ruled in Murray’s favour and the striker coolly dispatched the penalty.
Although Brighton had won all 18 of the previous matches in which they had scored first this season, Newcastle always looked capable of coming back. After spurning a series of chances, the visitors luck changed as they drew level in the 81st minute.
Christian Atsu’s miscued shot spun off Diame and looped into the air, eluding Brighton goalkeeper David Stockdale as it went into the top corner.
Atsu was the catalyst for a more conventional Newcastle when he got clear down the left in the 89th minute and crossed for Perez to side-foot home from 10 yards.
– Jeered –
Jonathan Kodjia went from zero to hero against his former club as Aston Villa eased their relegation fears with a 2-0 win over Bristol City at Villa Park.
Kodjia joined Villa from City last year and the striker was jeered by the away fans after crashing a first-half penalty against the crossbar.
However, the Ivorian scored Villa’s 54th minute opener and then set up Conor Hourihane’s first goal for the club in the 59th minute as Villa put nine points between themselves and a struggling City side now without a win in their last five.
Struggling Blackburn marked new manager Tony Mowbray’s first home game with a 1-0 win over Derby that improved their survival prospects and dented their visitors’ play-off push.
Former Celtic and West Bromwich Albion boss Mowbray was named as Owen Coyle’s successor last week and has now taken four points from two games.
Blackburn’s winner came via a Craig Conway penalty in the 58th minute, moving them level on points with 21st-placed Bristol City.
Derby, now without a goal in three games, have ended a winless February languishing 10 points behind the top six. -AFP