Rondón breaks his duck to drag Newcastle towards mid-table
Newcastle Utd Bournemouth
IF Salomón Rondón can stay fit Newcastle United will surely stay up. Given the No 9’s chequered medical history that remains quite a big if, but on this persuasive evidence, Rondón’s highly disruptive penalty-area presence is capable of camouflaging all manner of deficiencies elsewhere in Rafa Benítez’s team.
His first two goals in a Newcastle shirt won an excellent, exhilaratingly attacking contest as the Magpies recorded only their second win of the season.
That slow start to the campaign has coincided with a frustrating few months for Rondón as the West Brom loanee long coveted by Benítez struggled to make his long-awaited return to full fitness. By the seventh minute, though, it was abundantly apparent that the long hours spent shuttling between treatment room and gym had paid dividends.
After collecting Mo Diamé’s pass, DeAndre Yedlin accelerated beyond Bournemouth’s defence before crossing superbly for the Venezuela centre-forward. Rondón’s connection was true but his first-time volley was well parried by Asmir Begovic only for the goalkeeper to be beaten by the striker’s right-foot finish from the rebound.
Benítez’s players lived a little dangerously as Eddie Howe’s side saw a penalty appeal rejected following Federico Fernandez’s challenge on David Brooks and then Fernandez made a stellar, possibly goal-preventing, tackle on Callum Wilson.
The game was delayed for several minutes as Adam Smith received oxygen on the pitch in the wake of a freak injury which saw him crumple to the ground after seeming to be caught, accidentally, on a kneecap by Newcastle’s Bournemouth old-boy Matt Ritchie.
Eventually, Smith departed on a stretcher to be replaced by Charlie Daniels and, shortly, afterwards, Rondón showed off his aerial prowess. His second goal was an imperiously powerful flying header, directed beyond Begovic in the wake of Ki Sung-yueng’s excellent crossfield pass and Kenedy’s fine leftwing cross. Nathan Ake, supposedly marking Newcastle’s centre-forward, was comprehensively out-leapt.
Rondón’s confidence was visibly increasing almost by the minute and he saw a penalty appeal turned down following Wilson’s apparent handball. Newly summoned to the England squad, Wilson very nearly scored at the wrong end but Begovic saved brilliantly to keep his attempted defensive header out.
Amid all the panic provoked by Rondón in the visiting rearguard, Bournemouth enjoyed a few dangerous attacking cameos and Martin Dubravka did very well to tip Steve Cook’s header over his bar following Ryan Fraser’s cross.
From Fraser’s resultant corner, Jefferson Lerma stole in front of Ki to reduce the deficit courtesy of a stooping header he somehow squeezed past Dubravka. Registered deep in stoppage time at the end of the first half, Lerma’s first goal for Bournemouth disrupted the game’s psychological power balance but could easily have been cancelled out had Ayoze Perez not dragged a shot wide after meeting Fabian Schar’s fine lofted pass.
As the second half unfolded, half-chances came and went at both ends but as Bournemouth’s attacking menace grew, Benítez made a couple of defensive substitutions and switched to a back five.
Dominating possession and displaying a threatening change of pace, Howe’s side were in the ascendancy and substitute Dan Gosling had the ball in the back of the net only to see that ‘equaliser’ correctly ruled out for offside.
Yet if Dubravka was the busier goalkeeper, a relentlessly exciting game had not become entirely one-sided and Begovic did well to keep substitute Christian Atsu’s shot out before using his legs to deny Rondón a hat-trick.
Howe’s team headed for Newcastle airport and the flight back to the south coast knowing they will often play worse and win as Benítez celebrated a second successive victory which, remarkably, has propelled his side towards the sunlit uplands of mid-table.
Salomón Rondón celebrates the second of his two goals for Newcastle against Bournemouth