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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, April 15, 2024

The Final Whistle: Newcastle dares to dream

Graphic by Aliza Kibel

Having lost just three games all season, Newcastle United is weeks away from returning to the pinnacle of European football. In a season where Liverpool and Chelsea have drifted astray from their usual title-challenging positions, mid-table sides have dared to dream of European qualification with one capitalizing more on this goal than any other. With every game, Eddie Howe’s men look more like a Champions League side destined to return to the big stage.

A roaring London Stadium and a defensively drilled West Ham side hoped to end Newcastle’s impressive run, with the Magpies coming off an incredible 20 victory against fellow top-four challengers Manchester United. Most would predict a tight affair. A safe bet. But playing it safe is the last thing Newcastle is relying on this season.

After bracing an initial attacking flurry from the home side, Newcastle took the lead in the sixth minute as Callum Wilson calmly guided in a dangerous cross from Allan Saint-Maximin. Cheers echoed in a deflated stadium from the pocket of traveling away fans. Six minutes later, a poorly executed offside trap saw Joelinton one-on-one with Lukasz Fabianski, who was left stranded as the Brazilian rounded the goalkeeper and finished in an empty net. Close to halftime, West Ham pulled one back with a powerful header from Kurt Zouma. It was a perfectly poised game at the break.

Seconds after the restart, however, Newcastle doubled its lead as Nayef Aguerd was caught in possession by Jacob Murphy to square it to Wilson who finished in an empty net. David Moyes’ men contained Newcastle for the next period of the game until Fabianski made an error. His misjudged charge out of his box allowed Alexander Isak to dink the ball into an open goal. The final dagger came in the 89th minute with a quick transition ending with a cool left-footed finish from Joelinton into the bottom right corner.

One player who has anchored Newcastle’s attack is Alexander Isak. The Swedish forward often links the midfield with wide plays while drawing out defenders to create open running and passing lanes. With the speed of St. Maximin and the precision players like Murphy and Joe Willock around him, Isak is able to pivot between the lines and thread key passes as was shown in Newcastle’s first goal against Manchester United last week. Bruno Guimãraes’s arrival from Lyon has provided a much-needed spark in the midfield as the 24-year-old combines his lethal passing vision with Brazilian flair to make him one of the league’s standout midfielders. Guimãraes is also a defensive asset, often shutting down counterattacks and putting in last-ditch tackles to allow the team to reshape.

Newcastle’s next two Premier League games are away at Brentford and Aston Villa, the latter of which will be a difficult test against a team in form. A young squad with brilliant attacking know-how led by a fearless manager seems to be unphased by big-name opposition and hopes to bring Champions League football back to the British northeast for the first time in 20 years.