Blackburn Rovers 2-4 Newcastle United (aet): Magpies need extra time to edge past Rovers in FA Cup
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
Newcastle United certainly did not make it easy for themselves when they faced Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup third round replay. After drawing 1-1 at St James' Park, the Magpies played the Championship side on their own turf to compete for a place in the fourth round. It would take until extra time to determine this fixture in an evenly-fought contest.
It took just one minute for Newcastle to open the scoring at Ewood Park. They looked more alert with the Blackburn defenders needing to wake up. Sean Longstaff collected the ball from 30 yards out, and he was given too much time to control it, tee up his shot, and fire it towards goal. The ball took a deflection, hitting the back of Amari'i Bell, leaving goalkeeper David Raya stranded as it flew into the left corner.
The visitors were playing a quick, hard-pressing game that was poking holes in the Rovers defence. Jacob Murphy was able to beat Ryan Nyambe with his pace, charging down the right, and attempted an effort at the near post. Raya was able to claw it away, but it fell straight back to Murphy. He sent the ball into the centre of the box, and Cal Roberts volleys it in. The 21-year-old made his second appearance for Newcastle, 1473 days after his debut for the Magpies on January 3, 2015.
It looked like an uphill battle for the hosts, 2-0 down with only 22 minutes on the clock. But they managed to fight back, drawing level before the break. Their first goal came in the 33rd minute, courtesy of former Newcastle striker, Adam Armstrong. A long ball was pumped to Danny Graham from the back, who controlled it superbly before sending a through ball to Armstrong. The striker slotted it under the legs of goalkeeper Freddie Woodman.
On the stroke of half time, Blackburn found the equaliser. A corner from Harrison Reed found Darragh Lenihan, who managed to rise the higher, and the Irish defender headed it powerfully into the far corner.
Both sides cancelled each other in the second half, with neither finding the killer ball to win the game. While Blackburn and Newcastle were missing players for this fixture, Rafa Benitez lost two more when Ciaran Clark, and his replacement off the bench, Jamaal Lascelles hobbled off with injuries. Isaac Hayden and Fabian Schär also required lengthy treatment later on.
There were penalty shouts at both ends of the pitch. Ben Brereton felt the studs of the Newcastle defence, and Lenihan was lucky to avoid conceding a spot kick with a late challenge on Joselu. The visitors, however, would feel aggrieved when the game went to extra time.
Only minutes before the Magpies were ahead again, substitute Bradley Dack missed a golden opportunity. The 25-year-old midfielder, who is Rovers' top goalscorer netting 13 goals in all competitions, fired wide, after Graham's lovely pass was headed down to Dack. It could have settled the game.
With three minutes added to the first half of extra time, the linesman failed to notice Joselu in a blatant offside position in the build-up to the Newcastle goal. A stinging, long-range effort from Fabian Schär was parried straight to Joselu, who tapped it in.
The Magpies wrapped up the game within a minute of returning for the second half of extra time. Substitute Ayoze Pérez was able to find space on the right, before sending a scorching shot through Raya. The goalkeeper got a hand to it, but it was not enough to deny Newcastle's fourth goal - and their passage into the FA Cup fourth round.
Blackburn Rovers face Ipswich Town in their next Championship game at the weekend, hosting the Tractor Boys at Ewood Park on Saturday (K.O. 3pm). Newcastle United continue their relegation battle in the Premier League against Cardiff City on Saturday (K.O. 3pm). The Magpies face Watford in the FA Cup at home on Saturday, January 26 (K.O. 3pm).