NEW­CAS­TLE ............................................................ 2 Unit­ed­cel­e­brate an­niver­sary of fa­mous vic­tory in fit­ting style

Sunday Sun - - Football -

Could, and should, have had a hat­trick. Got in right po­si­tions and held up play well, but fin­ish­ing must im­prove NEW­CAS­TLE United may not be on a level play­ing field with Barcelona any­more but on the 20th an­niver­sary of their Cham­pi­ons League win over the Cata­lans, the pas­sion of St James’ Park still crack­led fiercely as the Mag­pies climbed into the up­per ech­e­lons of the Premier League.

Led by cap­tain fan­tas­tic Ja­maal Las­celles – who headed home the vi­tal win­ning strike at the Gal­low­gate End – New­cas­tle recorded their third win a row in the Premier League for the first time since 2014.

But they had to fight tooth and nail for the vic­tory, and while the he­roes in black and white may have changed down the years, it’s a fair bet that Tino Asprilla and the like would have ap­pre­ci­ated the bat­tling qual­i­ties of the cur­rent oc­cu­piers of the black and white shirts.

New­cas­tle could have had this game wrapped up ear­lier had Joselu not missed a trio of good chances ei­ther side of half-time.

How­ever, the char­ac­ter of United shone through af­ter they hit back af­ter Xher­dan Shaqiri’s stun­ning equaliser at the Leazes End.

Both teams had started the day in a cau­tious man­ner re­sult­ing in no shots on tar­get from ei­ther side in the first 15 min­utes.

How­ever, United found a break­through on the 20-minute mark when Mikel Merino and Isaac Hayden worked well to get the ball to Matt Ritchie on the right.

The Scot­land winger played in a teas­ing cross and Chris­tian Atsu ar­rived at the back post to poke home from close range. Ja­maal Las­celles of New­cas­tle United heads the ball to score his side’s win­ner against Stoke, then cel­e­brates (right)

Two min­utes later, skip­per Ja­maal Las­celles rose high from a cor­ner but headed just wide as the Mag­pies en­joyed a spell of pos­ses­sion.

Stoke re­sponded on 23 min­utes when for­mer In­ter Mi­lan star Shaqiri whipped in a vi­cious shot from the right only for Rob El­liot to ex­pertly palm the dan­ger away, mak­ing an ex­cel­lent stop.

New­cas­tle should have dou­bled their lead on 27 min­utes when Chan­cel Mbe­mba picked out Joselu, but the lat­ter squan­dered a good chance right in front of goal.

The ex-Stoke striker had an­other chance 11 min­utes be­fore the break when DeAn­dre Yedlin’s shot was de­flected into his path, but Stoke keeper Jack But­land rushed out to deny his for­mer team-mate with his feet.

United went in 1-0 up at the break but Joselu didn’t have to wait long for his next chance.

Sadly, it was a case of what might have been again for the ex-Real Madrid for­ward.

Just 15 sec­onds into the sec­ond half Atsu’s clipped pass found

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