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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Louise Taylor at St James' Park

Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie denies Bournemouth with last-gasp equaliser

Matt Ritchie scores Newcastle’s late leveller against Bournemouth
Matt Ritchie scores Newcastle’s late leveller against Bournemouth at St James’ Park. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images/Reuters

Tactical anarchy reigned supreme as, deep in stoppage time, a ghost of Bournemouth past denied Andoni Iraola’s team a first Premier League win of 2024.

At 34 Matt Ritchie plays very rarely these days but he retains Eddie Howe’s trust and, after stepping off the substitutes’ bench in the 91st minute, the winger repaid the Newcastle manager’s faith.

Just as a bewilderingly chaotic, if highly entertaining afternoon, seemed set to end with Howe suffering an ignominious defeat against the club he once coached with distinction, Ritchie connected with the fallout from Bruno Guimarães’s defence-confounding cross and stabbed home from close range after his own header across goal had been deflected. All that remained was for the veteran to celebrate in a manner befitting a forward without a goal since 2020.

“We had to dig really deep,” said Howe after watching his suddenly porous side concede their 19th and 20th Premier League goals in the last eight games. “Matt hasn’t played as much as he wants to but he drives standards in training. That was a big late goal.”

Dominic Solanke’s name sits high on Howe’s summer shopping list but, despite opening the scoring with a classic opportunist’s strike, the Bournemouth centre forward might have wished this particular audition had started a little better.

Twice in the course of a helter-skelter, slightly kamikaze, end-to-end first half, Solanke should really have scored after being cued up by Justin Kluivert. On both occasions Martin Dubravka saved extremely well but Solanke will surely feel he should have given the home goalkeeper no chance.

In the absence of the injured Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson, Anthony Gordon led Newcastle’s attacking line and revelled in using his pace and persistence to provide Neto with a few frights. Early on Gordon came close to scoring after closing Bournemouth’s keeper down as he lingered over a kick.

During a sabbatical between leaving Bournemouth and taking charge on Tyneside, Howe had shadowed Iraola at his former club Rayo Vallecano and been very impressed with the La Liga team’s high, hard pressing style.

While he soon set about implementing a broadly similar system at Newcastle, Iraola has introduced a version of that Spanish template on the south coast. It all resulted in a mutual willingness to take risks which, on more than one occasion, left Howe’s left-back Dan Burn singed by Bournemouth’s attacking pace.

Dubravka though was the individual culpable for the concession of Solanke’s opener. When Newcastle’s defence decided to build slowly from the back the ball was played back to the Slovakia keeper, who, after taking one touch, slipped and watched in horror as the striker stole in to tap home. Given that Dubravka had earlier saved superbly from Marcus Tavernier it seemed rough justice.

Antoine Semenyo somersaults in celebration after scoring Bournemouth’s second goal.
Antoine Semenyo somersaults in celebration after scoring Bournemouth’s second goal. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Howe is worried that Dan Ashworth’s mooted switch from the sporting director role at St James’ Park to the equivalent position at Old Trafford will result in the leakage of Newcastle’s innermost secrets. Not that it will come as any surprise if and when Ashworth – present in the directors’ box here – informs Manchester United’s hierarchy that Newcastle cannot defend.

At least they remain an attacking threat. Gordon duly emphasised that menace by equalising from the penalty spot after a lengthy VAR review confirmed that Adam Smith had hauled Fabian Schär back in the area. “A very soft penalty,” lamented Iraola, before claiming that Schär was offside and interfering with play. “I’m very, very upset with the officiating. I’m really happy with the performance but disappointed with just one point.”

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Undeterred, Bournemouth rallied with Marcos Senesi’s excellent block coming between Guimarães and a goal. When, not for the first time, Antoine Semenyo dodged Burn, the right winger proceeded to beat Dubravka courtesy of a fine, beautifully calibrated, finish from the edge of the area.

Howe ordered Tino Livramento to ready himself for action. The fourth official had not even raised the electronic board bearing 33, Burn’s number, when the left back walked over, said “it’s me isn’t it” and promptly strolled off, muttering to himself.

As Bournemouth’s manager, Howe often had Ritchie to thank for gamechanging goals and when he issued his latest call to arms, the substitute did not disappoint.

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