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Newcastle United earned a second successive Premier League win as captain Jamaal Lascelles proved their match-winner in attack and defence at Swansea City.
A soporific first half was enlivened by a flurry of late chances at both ends and a failed Newcastle appeal for a penalty after Mikel Merino appeared to dive under pressure from Alfie Mawson.
Tammy Abraham was a whisker away from giving Swansea the lead but, after he rounded visiting goalkeeper Rob Elliot, his shot was superbly cleared off the line by Lascelles.
The Newcastle centre-back then rose highest from a Matt Ritchie corner to score the game’s only goal with a thumping header.
A first away win in the Premier League since 2015 sees the Magpies climb up to 10th in the table, while the Swans slip to 15th after losing their opening two home league games of the season for the first time since 1985.
Newcastle win without Benitez
Newcastle were without their manager Rafael Benitez on the touchline as the Spaniard recovered from surgery to deal with an infection from a hernia operation two years ago.
He had overseen a first win of the season in the previous game before the international break – a handsome 3-0 victory over West Ham – but his side initially struggled to reproduce that form in his absence.
The visitors eventually settled and Joselu’s glancing header was brilliantly palmed away by Lukasz Fabianski, although Newcastle’s goalkeeper Elliot also had to show sharp reflexes to deny Jordan Ayew.
In between those chances there was a moment which prompted howls of fury from both sets of fans as Merino fell under a challenge from Mawson and appealed in vain for a penalty, with replays showing the Spaniard had dived and was lucky not to be booked.
The incident proved to be academic as Newcastle grew in confidence and looked increasingly threatening in attack, with the breakthrough coming after 76 minutes as Lascelles evaded Mawson to power his header beyond Fabianski.
There was further good news for Newcastle as assistant manager Francisco de Miguel Moreno told BBC Sport that Benitez would return to the club later this week.
“He wanted to attend but the weather conditions were not the best,” said De Miguel Moreno. “He has been active in the game and kept in touch with us throughout the game.
“After the game, Rafa rang us and congratulated all the team because they did a fantastic job. He said ‘we are now under way’.
“We need Rafa back as soon as possible. This week he will join us, probably on Tuesday.”
Swansea’s new signings fail to fire
Swansea handed a first start to Renato Sanches, the Portuguese midfielder who joined from Bayern Munich on a season-long loan on transfer deadline day.
There were high hopes for the 20-year-old, a former Manchester United target who had joined Bayern from Benfica for 35m euros last year, although it was a mixed beginning to life in south Wales for Sanches as he showed some neat touches but also misplaced several passes.
His display personified a disjointed encounter which failed to produce any action of note until the closing stages of the first half.
Another of Swansea’s deadline-day arrivals, Wilfried Bony, was given a hero’s welcome on his return from Manchester City but the Ivorian striker had little impact on the game when he came on as a second-half substitute.
Although head coach Paul Clement had made the seemingly positive change from a 5-3-2 formation to 4-4-2 for this game, the Swans looked blunt in attack and, apart from Abraham’s chance, seldom troubled their opponents.
Man of the match – Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle)
Another Lascelles header – the stats
- Since the start of last season, no side in the top four tiers of English football has won more away league games than Newcastle (15, level with Chelsea and Exeter).
- The Swans have lost their opening two home league games of a season without scoring a goal for just the second time in their history (1985-86).
- Matt Ritchie has registered an assist in all three of his Premier League appearances against Swansea (three in total).
- All three of Jamaal Lascelles goals for Newcastle in the Premier League have been headers from a corner – with two of those coming against Swansea.
- Jesus Gamez – aged 32 years and 152 days – became the second oldest Premier League debutant of 2017/18, behind Bruno of Brighton & Hove Albion (36 years and 314 days).
- Newcastle have failed to score in the first half of their last 14 away Premier League matches since Papiss Cisse scored against Crystal Palace in November 2015.
- Swansea have lost back-to-back home Premier League games under Paul Clement for the first time.
- The Swans have faced 16 shots on target in home Premier League games this season, more than any other side; Newcastle, meanwhile, have fired in 13 shots on target in away Premier League games, with only league leaders Manchester United (16) having more so far this campaign.
‘A missed opportunity’ – what they said
Swansea manager Paul Clement told BBC Sport: “I’m not very happy. The margin of the defeat was small and decided by a set play but we weren’t at the level I expect.
“Our preparation was good and the atmosphere around the team was good. We were second best in lots of areas. We pushed to the end but never really created anything and Newcastle were better than us.
“Any system can be undone whether it is man-to-man or zonal. Both have strengths and weaknesses. It worked well for us last season. We have conceded two from corners this season so the details aren’t right. We don’t need to change how we defend, just go about our defending in a better way.
“It was a missed opportunity. We are a good side but we didn’t execute today. At this level you have to do that. We have to move on quickly. We have a hard game at Tottenham next week and it is important we are better.”
On Renato Sanches, Clement added: “He has come to a new club and has new team-mates, a new language, new culture. He did things today that were good and some that weren’t good. He is a quality player.”
Newcastle assistant manager Francisco de Miguel Moreno told Sky Sports: “I feel very happy, very glad for the performance of the players.
“We expected them to play with five at the back and we realised it was four but everything was as planned. We tried to control their midfielders and attack down wide.
“Jamaal Lascelles has the spirit of a captain, without doubt. He manages everything so well and is involved in all situations.”
Newcastle play at home against Stoke City on Saturday, 16 September (15:00 BST), before Swansea play away at Tottenham in the late game on Saturday (17:30 BST)
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