Matt Ritchie scored a stunning stoppage-time equaliser as Newcastle United edged closer to Premier League survival after a dramatic 2-2 draw against Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday.
The Scotland international, who left the Vitality Stadium to join the Magpies in 2016, lashed home on the volley four minutes into added time with Eddie Howe stating, “He’s probably the one player on the pitch we didn’t want the ball to fall to on his left foot as we know how he can strike the ball from distance.”
On a blustery day on the South Coast, Newcastle coped best with the conditions early on, taking the lead in first-half stoppage time when Salomon Rondon curled a sublime free-kick into the net. Having said this, Bournemouth made the perfect start to the second period when referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot on the 48th minute for a foul by Federico Fernandez on Nathan Ake.
Norwegian forward Joshua King calmly slotted home from the penalty to level the scores and the hosts could have gone ahead just two minutes later when centre-back Chris Mepham headed just wide from a corner. Midfielder Jefferson Lerma then spurned a chance from six yards out before Callum Wilson’s looping header from inside the area was superbly cleared off the line by Welshman Paul Dummett.
Bournemouth took the lead in the 81st minute when King fired in a superb effort from the edge of the box after some brilliant hold-up play from substitute Dominic Solanke.
However, with the last kick of the game, Scottish winger Ritchie fired in a sensational half-volley from just inside the area to give Newcastle a share of the spoils. The impressive Magpies have now lost just two of their last nine Premier League games, after losing three of the four before that.
Newcastle have one step inside Premier league safety door
Rafael Benitez believes one more win will be enough to secure Premier League survival for Newcastle. “We have to keep going, the job is not done. We have to keep winning games” said manager Benitez.
“I think it could be 38 points (to stay up), it depends. Obviously, 40 is guaranteed for me. I think 38 will be enough, so we have to keep winning if we can.” Newcastle’s comfortable position in 13th place is remarkable given they registered just three points from their opening 10 games of the campaign.
A run of five successive home wins prior to the trip to the South Coast helped propel Benitez’s side away from trouble. The Spaniard will reward his squad with time off during the international break ahead of the game at Arsenal on April 1st.
Ever improving Matt Ritchie comes back to haunt his former club
A man becoming accustomed to his wing-back position, Matt Ritchie was in perpetual motion for the visitors all afternoon down the left flank, while he was one of the few players whose crossing wasn’t affected by the blustery conditions.
In the end, it was former Bournemouth midfielder Ritchie who made the decisive contribution, volleying home his first league goal from open play this season to edge his side closer to Premier League safety. “It was a good goal, one of my better ones”. “It’s a strange feeling as I owe so much to this club and then I wheeled away and realised I have a lot of respect for this club” Ritchie said. Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe, who is taking his players away for warm-weather training in Dubai, was left ruing the fact that Ritchie got on the end of the cross.
“It’s bizarre how football can find these stories” a wrenched Howe said of his former player. “Matt is the one player we didn’t want the ball to fall to. It is a difficult one to take for us. We thought we’d done enough to win…but Matt Ritchie’s left foot is deadly, and he showed it today.”
Josh King shows his clinical worth again
Norwegian international Josh King was unlucky in a way not to be on the winning side on Saturday. He did everything he needed to for Bournemouth by securing two goals – the second of which was a confident finish taking him to 11 league goals for the season. He also created two major chances for his teammates, including Fraser’s early effort which crashed off the post.
Bournemouth had looked the more likely winners for most of the afternoon and thought they had secured the three points nine minutes from time. The substitute Dominic Solanke, on for Ibe, worked space inside the area before laying the ball off for King to sweep a first-time effort into the left corner from the edge of the box for his sixth goal in his last five home games.
“I’m not really counting away or home games or where I score goals, I’ve just got a mark of where I’m trying to beat my best record of 16 (in 2016/17) and I’ve got seven games left to do that,” he told the clubs website.
While King will be away with Norway before the Cherries travel to Leicester on March 30th, his team-mates not on international duty will be in Dubai for a mid-season training camp.
Cherries on cusp of the magic 40-point mark with a comfortable cushion
Eddie Howe said before the game that his Bournemouth side were still not safe from relegation, despite their comfortable cushion over the bottom three.
The hosts started confidently at the Vitality Stadium with Ryan Fraser striking the outside of the post with 10 minutes gone, but Jordon Ibe’s clumsy challenge on Miguel Almiron in first-half stoppage time gave Newcastle one last opportunity to test Artur Boruc before the break.
Bournemouth were on the brink of a second straight win which would have taken them to 40 points, but the second half of their season continues to lack impetus – they have now only won once in seven matches. It does however remain only matter a time before the coveted 40 pointer is reached again by Eddie Howe’s men.
Mike Dean reminds VAR can’t come soon enough for PL managers and referees
It’s almost a weekly, if not daily, reminder of VAR and its uses and abuses and its lack in the Premier League. Especially at a critical juncture where top four, European and relegation battles are being fought, it gains unsurmountable importance.
At the start of the second half, Bournemouth had a corner. It was whipped in and Newcastle’s Federico Fernandez was spotted with his arm around Nathan Ake’s neck. It was the type of foul you see go unpunished inside penalty areas week in, week out. Dean took his time then pointed to the spot and King sent Martin Dubravka the wrong way for his 10th Premier League goal of the season. The 11th would soon follow.
Benitez was far from pleased with referee Mike Dean however as he said: “Some decisions you need to have VAR and you have to make sure you get the decisions right. There were too many decisions that didn’t go our way.”
Bournemouth take on Leicester at the King Power Stadium on Saturday 30th March while Newcastle travel to Arsenal the following Monday.