Newcastle have been on something of a roll of late. They came into today's game against West Bromwich Albion on a three-game winning streak, and they kept that going at St. James' Park, with goals from Yoann Gouffran and Moussa Sissoko securing victory against the Baggies.
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The first half started slowly, and for a while it looked as though we'd be in for another footballing grind. Fortunately, the game got a goal before the interval -- before Gouffran opened the scoring, the closest we came to excitement was a mis-hit Loic Remy header that bounced off Billy Jones to safety. But Gouffran did score, mostly thanks to him standing in the right place at the right time. Boaz Myhill punched a corner straight up, and despite the attentions of Youssuf Mulumbu, the midfielder got his head to the ball for the opener.
At 1-0, we were all set for an exciting second half. West Brom didn't disappoint, pouring bodies forward in search of an equaliser. They should have got one just after the break -- Shane Long's pass to Morgan Amalfitano was slightly overhit, certainly, but the real sin was Chris Brunt's failure to make a run to the back post. Had he done so, he would have been presented with a tap-in from an undefendable cross.
Brunt made up for that error in the 53rd minute. A cross came in from the right once again; this time the midfielder stayed wide, and reaped the rewards when Mathieu Debuchy got sucked underneath the ball and missed the clearance. Brunt, in acres of space, controlled and fired past Tim Krul to make it 1-1.
But Newcastle had more in the tank, and they reestablished their lead almost immediately thanks to a brilliant hit from Sissoko. The former Toulouse man seized upon a Remy header 25 yards from goal, took one touch, and sent a viciously swerving strike past Myhill and into the top corner. It was a fabulous goal, and rather took the wind out of the visitors' sails.
The rest of the match belonged to Newcastle. The hosts were twice looking for a penalty after Jones looked to have handled in the box (he didn't the first time; he definitely did for the second), and Debuchy should have done better after Brunt coughed up possession in his own half, the fullback ultimately shooting straight at Myhill. Fortunately, they didn't need to score again -- 2-1 would be enough for another crucial win.
Newcastle United starting lineup (4-4-2): Tim Krul; Davide Santon, Fabricio Coloccini, Michael Williamson, Mathieu Debuchy; Yoan Gouffran, Yohan Cabaye, Cheick Tiote, Moussa Sissoko; Loic Remy (Vernon Anita 84'), Shola Ameobi.
Goals: Gouffran 36', Sissoko 57'.
West Bromwich Albion starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Boaz Myhill; Liam Ridgewell, Jonas Olsson, Gareth McAuley, Billy Jones; Youssuf Mulumbu, James Morrison; Chris Brunt (Saido Berehino 76'), Stephane Sessegnon (Victor Anichebe 77'), Morgan Amalfitano (Zoltan Gera 87'); Shane Long.
Goals: Brunt 53'.