Newcastle beat Blackburn in FA Cup shootout thriller

Wed, Feb 28, 2024
By editor
6 MIN READ

Sports

EDDIE Howe spoke of his “relief” as Newcastle edged past Blackburn in a penalty shootout to reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup – a competition the Magpies boss says they are “desperate” to win.

Martin Dubravka was Newcastle’s hero at Ewood Park, pushing Dominic Hyam’s penalty on to the post after also saving from Sammie Szmodics, who had earlier scored in normal time.

Harvey Barnes missed his spot-kick for the Premier League side, but Fabian Schar, Bruno Guimaraes, Elliot Anderson and Anthony Gordon scored their attempts to take them through after a thriller.

“There is only one emotion and that is relief,” said Howe. “It was a hard-fought cup tie. Both sides gave everything to get the win and didn’t give an inch, but we are delighted to be in the hat for the next round.

“No-one is underestimating the importance of the FA Cup so the players are very happy.

“This keeps us in a competition we are desperate to do well in and also gets us closer to Wembley. We’re one game away so hopefully we can get a good draw.

“Our target this year is the FA Cup and to finish as high as possible in the Premier League, and this is hopefully pivotal towards that.”

Gordon had put Newcastle ahead in the 71st minute with a first-time finish after a bright run from substitute Miguel Almiron down the right wing. It came just after Gordon had been denied by Rovers goalkeeper Aynsley Pears when through on goal.

Anthony Gordon scores for Newcastle
Anthony Gordon’s goal was his ninth of the season for Newcastle but his first in the FA Cup

But Blackburn, 16th in the second tier, were only behind for eight minutes.

Szmodics grabbed his 24th goal of the season in all competitions, reacting quickest to convert the rebound after Dubravka had acrobatically touched Dilan Markanday’s shot on to the underside of the crossbar.

Rovers nearly won it in the third minute of injury time, but Yasin Ayari’s strike was blocked by Dubravka’s legs to take the tie to extra time.

Schar, Gordon, Sean Longstaff, Dan Burn and Guimaraes also missed good chances for the visitors, with Szmodics having another effort saved in a breathless extra-time period, before the tie was settled by spot-kicks.

The draw for the quarter-finals takes place at 19:00 GMT on Wednesday, before Chelsea’s home meeting with Leeds on ITV4, with the ties played over the weekend of 16 March

Dubravka heroics give Newcastle new ‘hope’

The ending was harsh on Rovers captain Hyam and fellow defender Scott Wharton, who had been named player of the match after a superb performance that included a fantastic goalline block in extra time to deny Guimaraes.

The penalties took place in front of Newcastle’s 7,430 travelling fans, who helped create a superb atmosphere in what proved to be a classic cup tie. The crowd of 22,730 was the highest for a Blackburn match at Ewood Park since 27,600 witnessed a League One promotion party against Oxford United on 5 May 2018.

The result means Newcastle can still salvage something from a season that promised so much, but has seen a string of disappointments.

Before the game, Howe said the campaign could “still be very special”.

The Magpies came fourth in the Premier League last year to qualify for the Champions League for the first time after a 20-year absence, but are currently down in 10th with a top-four spot seemingly beyond them.

European football for 2024-25 remains a hope, albeit with the Europa League and Europa Conference League considered more viable targets.

Former Blackburn and Newcastle striker Alan Shearer, speaking on BBC One, called the victory a “huge, huge win” for Howe and his players.

“Newcastle owe Martin Dubravka a lot, he’s made a lot of good saves and he made two saves in the shootout,” said Shearer. “They owe him a huge debt. They are in the next round because of him.

“It is a massive result for Newcastle and Eddie Howe. They needed this. It’s pretty worrying that it didn’t look like they had energy, but that might galvanise them and give them a bit of hope.”

Newcastle are now in the last eight of the FA Cup, with the competition’s winners earning a spot in the Europa League, while they also aim to win their first major trophy since 1969.

But they were pushed all the way by their opponents, who are only four points above the Championship relegation zone.

Sammy Szmodics scores for Blackburn
Sammy Szmodics’ goal was his sixth in the FA Cup this season after scoring a hat-trick against Cambridge in round three and two against Wrexham in the fourth round

Blackburn boss John Eustace was only appointed in February, after Jon Dahl Tomasson resigned, and had urged his side to play with freedom and enjoy their experience.

He was not to be disappointed as Rovers were the better side in the first half, with Szmodics impressing throughout.

But Dubravka stood firm, denying Szmodics and Hyam when it mattered most, as Newcastle scraped through.

Home fans protest against owners

After 14 minutes of the match, there was a brief stoppage as between 15-20 tennis balls were thrown on to the pitch from fans in the corner of the Ronnie Clayton Blackburn End – the end Rovers were defending in the first half.

“We want Venky’s out,” was the chant from some home fans as they vented their anger at the club’s owners.

There have been similar protests using tennis balls in many Bundesliga matches recently, with fans protesting against an investment proposal by the German Football Association, which has since been dropped in Germany.

While the Bundesliga protests normally forced a delay of about 10 minutes and teams sometimes left the pitch, the tennis balls were quickly cleared at Ewood Park.

Former Blackburn midfielder Danny Murphy, speaking on BBC One, felt it showed the club still had to solve their off-field issues.

He said: “We had five managers in one season and there was discontent then. The reality is that there has not been any stability for this club.

“It is a great club as well. Still a lot of great people here. It should be doing better.”

BBC

28th February, 2024.

C.E

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