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Newcastle up to third after beating Man Utd as Chelsea sack Potter

Newcastle up to third after beating Man Utd as Chelsea sack Potter

FOOTBALL: Newcastle avenged their League Cup final loss against Manchester United as Joe Willock and Callum Wilson clinched a 2-0 win that lifted the Magpies into third place in the Premier League yesterday (Apr 2).


Monday 3 April 2023, 11:50AM

Newcastle edge above Manchester United on goal difference following their 2-0 win yesterday (Apr 2). Photo: AFP

Newcastle edge above Manchester United on goal difference following their 2-0 win yesterday (Apr 2). Photo: AFP

Eddie Howe’s side were beaten 2-0 by United at Wembley five weeks ago in their first major final for 24 years.

But Newcastle might swap silverware for a lucrative Champions League berth and second half goals from Willock and Wilson at a raucous St James’ Park moved them closer to that ambition.

Newcastle’s third successive league win - and their first against United since 2019 - took them above their fourth placed opponents on goal difference.

They sit one point ahead of fifth placed Tottenham, who visit Everton this evening, as the race hots up to qualify for next season’s Champions League via a top four finish.

It is 46 years since Newcastle last finished above United, but the Magpies, fuelled by Howe’s astute management and the financial backing of their Saudi owners, now have a rare chance to emulate that feat.

“We were frustrated not to lead at half-time, but I felt if we performed the same way it would come. Thankfully it did,” Howe said.

“If you’re playing well that’s the most important thing. That gives us a great chance of achieving a special season. If we can maintain our position I’ll be very happy.”

United are without a win in their last three league games, thrashed 7-0 at Liverpool and then held to a goalless draw by lowly Southampton before this setback on Tyneside.

United’s first major trophy in six years was supposed to be the start of a new golden era, but instead they have failed to score in three successive league matches for the first time since February 2020.

It was a dispiriting start to a busy run of nine fixtures in April as Erik ten Hag’s men look to nail down a top four finish, while aiming to advance to the Europa League semi-finals and FA Cup final.

“I hate to say it but they were better today, especially their determination, passion and desire. They wanted to win more so they won,” Ten Hag said.

“It wasn’t good enough. We allowed them too many chances. You have to be hungry and give everything every game.

“We have to deal with the setback and learn a lesson. I believe we’ll bounce back.”

Newcastle’s pressure was finally rewarded in the 65th minute when Bruno Guimaraes clipped a cross to the far post and Allan Saint-Maximin headed back towards Willock, who nodded home from virtually on the goalline.

Wilson put the result beyond doubt after 88 minutes with a clinical close-range header from Kieran Trippier’s free-kick.

West Ham boost

In yesterday’s other game, West Ham scrambled out of the relegation zone as Nayef Aguerd’s first goal for the club sealed a crucial 1-0 victory against fellow strugglers Southampton.

David Moyes’ side kicked off at the London Stadium languishing second bottom of the table, with Southampton in last place.

But Morocco defender Aguerd’s maiden goal since signing from French club Rennes last year lifted the Hammers up to 14th.

West Ham are just one point above the relegation zone, but they have a little breathing space thanks to their first win in three league games.

On the day Leicester sacked Brendan Rodgers after their slump into the bottom three, Hammers boss Moyes must have breathed a sigh of relief when the final whistle blew on a result that may have saved his job.

Southampton remain bottom of the table and sit three points from safety after their winless run reached four games.

Aguerd eased West Ham’s mounting anxiety in the 25th minute as the Morocco defender rose to power a header past Gavin Bazunu from Thilo Kehrer’s free-kick.

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“We have played better than that and not won this season, but today was all about the result,” Moyes said.

“I have to get results. There’s no protection to stop me losing my job.”

Chelsea sack Potter

Elsewhere, Graham Potter paid for Chelsea’s poor form as the Englishman was sacked yesterday after just seven months in the job.

The Blues had slipped to 11th in the Premier League table after a 2-0 home defeat to Aston Villa on Saturday despite spending over £500 million (B21 billion) on new signings this season.

Former Brighton defender Bruno Saltor has been placed in interim charge.

Chelsea have won just three games in their last 11 but have progressed to the quarter-finals of the Champions League where they face defending champions Real Madrid.

That tie may have been the decisive factor in the club’s new American owners pulling the trigger now, with the first leg in Madrid just 10 days away.

“We have the highest degree of respect for Graham as a coach and as a person. He has always conducted himself with professionalism and integrity and we are all disappointed in this outcome,” co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali said in a statement.

“We have 10 Premier League games remaining and a Champions League quarter-final ahead. We will put every effort and commitment into every one of those games so that we can end the season on a high.”

An unlikely run to the club’s third European Cup now appears Chelsea’s only route back into the Champions League next season as they sit 12 points adrift of the Premier League top four.

Potter becomes the second manager sacked by the consortium led by LA Dodgers co-owner Boehly and private equity firm Clearlake Capital in their first season in charge.

Thomas Tuchel, who was appointed Bayern Munich boss last week, was dismissed in September, just over a year from leading Chelsea to Champions League glory.

Chelsea paid £21.5mn in compensation to Brighton to appoint Potter.

But that sum pales into comparison next to the fortunes the club have spent on players over the past 12 months with little return.

Argentine World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez was signed for a new English transfer record £106mn in January, while huge sums were also spent on Mykhailo Mudryk, Wesley Fofana, Marc Cucurella and Raheem Sterling.

But Potter has struggled to strike upon a winning blend as he switched between formations and personnel without success.

The 47-year-old won just 12 of his 31 matches in charge and was widely booed by the Chelsea support after defeat to Villa at the weekend.

“I don’t like to blame anybody, I have to take responsibility,” said Potter after that match.

“We can feel the pain of the supporters... I understand when you lose at home, the emotion of the game is such that people are going to be disappointed and frustrated and angry.

“Where we are in the league table, no one’s happy with. Whatever criticism comes I have to accept.”

Saltor’s first match in charge will be tomorrow when Liverpool visit Stamford Bridge.

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