Rondón breaks his duck to drag Newcastle to­wards mid-ta­ble

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - LOUISE TAYLOR

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

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