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    Newcastle United 6-2 Norwich City


    Newcastle United and Norwich City met at St James' Park on Sunday afternoon with both sides desperately seeking three points. The Geordies were one of just two clubs out of the 92 football league teams to be without a win this season and sat bottom of the Premier League. Their visitors had been playing impressive attacking football for the majority of their opening eight games but had not kept a clean sheet and found themselves in 15th place going into this crucial match. 

    The home side have injury problems with first choice goalkeeper Tim Krul out for the season, so Rob Elliot was given the task of keeping Norwich's attackers out. Cheick Tiote and Jack Colback were given starts ahead of Vernon Anita and Yoan Gouffran in a more industrious Newcastle set up, with Paul Dummett also coming back into the side. Wes Hoolahan, Norwich's most creative player, was left on the bench again, but Nathan Redmond and shortlisted African Player of the Year Dieumerci Mbokani were given starts ahead of Matt Jarvis and Cameron Jerome.


    The game began at a slow pace with both sides realising the importance of the eventual outcome. Newcastle looked keen to treasure possession and Norwich were content to sit back and try to hit the hosts on the counter-attack. It was a risky strategy from Alex Neil's men, considering their defensive record so far this season, and the home side made them pay on 13 minutes. Moussa Sissoko skipped past two challenges on the edge of the box before threading through Georginio Wijnaldum who slid the ball past John Ruddy to give the hosts a vital lead. Norwich almost responded immediately with Robbie Brady smashing a crunching left footed drive from 25 yards against the post just three minutes later. That should have been a warning to the home side and Norwich were back on level terms on 20 minutes when Martin Olsson slipped away from Moussa Sissoko and whipped in a dangerous cross for Dieumerci Mbokani to poke home from close range. If Norwich had been guilty of sitting too deep in the opening stages of the game, Newcastle could be accused of the same after scoring the opener.

    St James' Park had been silenced but the quiet atmosphere didn't last long. Just five minutes after the visitors equalised, Sissoko and Wijnaldum combined again as the right winger floated a cross for Wijnaldum to head home his second goal of the game and restore Newcastle's lead. It was almost a sense of deja vu as Norwich went close with two attempts straight after the goal. Jonny Howson had a long range effort deflected just wide and Nathan Redmond headed the ball past the same post from the resulting corner. The visitors began to open up as they chased an equaliser and Newcastle used this to their advantage just after the half hour mark when they broke with speed after a Nathan Redmond shot was charged down. The ball made its way to Ayoze Perez, from Moussa Sissoko again, and the striker had his first shot blocked by Martin Olsson before he fired the rebound past John Ruddy to make the score 3-1. This was the first time Newcastle had scored three first half goals since March 2012. Though Norwich weren't to be disheartened and just 48 seconds after Perez's goal, Martin Olsson found space on the left side again and crossed the ball to an unmarked Nathan Redmond who volleyed Norwich back into the game. Five shots on target, five goals and plenty of defensive work to focus on for both managers at half-time. 


    Newcastle withdrew Cheick Tiote, who picked up a sixth minute booking, and introduced Vernon Anita at the start of the second half as they looked to tighten up their defensive lines. Norwich threatened as early as seven minutes after the break when Sebastian Bassong had a header cleared off the line by Georginio Wijnaldum, who was beginning to justify his £14.5 million price tag at both ends of the pitch. The visitors were beginning to turn the screw and starting to dominate territory. Another set piece saw Nathan Redmond fire a free-kick over the bar from a tight angle on 58 minutes. Almost inevitably, Alex Neil threw on Wes Hoolahan for Alex Tettey on the hour mark in the hope that his most creative player will help the visitors back into the game. That substitution was bound to leave a gap in midfield and the home side soon made full use of it. Moussa Sissoko won the ball by his own corner flag and burst forward before releasing an accurate diagonal ball for Alexander Mitrovic. The striker took the ball down and smashed the ball on the half volley to restore Newcastle's two goal advantage and calm the nerves of the home fans. It was Sissoko's third assist of the game, the first time any Premier League player had achieved such a feat since Andrew Cole in 1994.

    Sticking to the theme of the game, another goal was to be scored just minutes later. Sissoko stormed forward again before passing out wide to Daryl Janmaat who crossed for Wijnaldum to head home his third. It was the first Newcastle hat-trick since Demba Ba in October 2011 and the first time the team had scored five in a match for nearly two years. Norwich tried to respond and Nathan Redmond hit the post with a low drive across Rob Elliot on 68 minutes. The visitors had plenty of the ball inside the Newcastle defensive third but the hosts had tightened up their defence dramatically since half-time. Jerome and O'Neil came on for Olsson and Dorrans in the final minutes but Georginio Wijnaldum was the man to have the impact again as he hit a wonderful swerving effort past John Ruddy from 25 yards to get his fourth of the game and Newcastle's sixth from six shots on target. From no wins in eight, to a crushing 6-2 victory, is this the kick-start Steve McLaren's team were waiting for?


    Newcastle are off the bottom of the league but remain in the relegation zone and next up for them are fellow strugglers and bitter rivals Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Sunday. Norwich host West Brom in what should be a tight contest on Saturday and you can be sure Alex Neil will be working hard in training to tighten up his defence before that fixture. 

    Man of the Match: Georginio Wijnaldum
    The Dutch midfielder would have been disappointed to see his country fall short of Euro 2016 qualification last weekend, but he responded excellently by scoring an astonishing four goals and blocking one on the line to help Newcastle United earn their first victory of the season. 
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    Item Reviewed: Newcastle United 6-2 Norwich City Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Chris Lincoln
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