Joe Willock scored a quite sensational goal as Newcastle came from behind to draw 1-1 with West Ham.
The win now makes it five games in a row without defeat for Newcastle as they edge their way out of relegation trouble. Meanwhile West Ham were denied a return into the top four because of the Newcastle equaliser.
For the most part, discussion on the goal will probably fall onto Declan Rice’s mistake, which is admittedly quite hilarious as he mis-times he headed clearance and ends up looping it back towards his own goal.
But that didn’t leave Willock clean through like Gonzalo Higuain in the 2014 World Cup final or anything. He had Craig Dawson blocking his path to the ball and Ryan Fredricks preventing him from running around.
The 22-year-old midfielder fought against Dawson, watching the ball all the way, and when it fell he reached out with his right-foot and stabbed a wonderfully deft shot across goal, flummoxing Lukasz Fabianski and hitting the post before rolling into the back of the net.
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It was a sensational goal, Willock’s first of the season after his white hot end to 2020/21 where he scored in seven consecutive games for the Magpies. That was enough to convince them to sign him permanently in the summer, but naturally that form vanished.
The goal changed all that, however. “If Dennis Bergkamp does that we’re all purring,” was Joe Cole’s response to the absurd genius of the strike. What a sensational way to get off the mark; and it was the perfect cap to an all-around quality display.
“When you think about midfielders you wouldn’t like to play against, he probably comes into that category when he’s on his game,” said Rio Ferdinand after the game; “he can run past you, he can pass the ball past you, he will run with or without the ball past you. And we saw last season, again today, once he gets in around the box, the kid knows how to finish.”
On his goal, Willock said that “it’s been a long time coming, I’m happy to score and help the team. I just stuck to my task and just try to take on board what the manager wants me to do.”
Eddie Howe’s influence on Willock and Newcastle is clear, one only needs to look at Willock’s heat maps from this season under Steve Bruce and then under Eddie Howe, where now he’s having so much more impact in opponent’s halves.
“He’s grown and grown and grown, and I felt that goal was coming,” said Eddie Howe after the match. “He was driving us forward from midfield, he’s been a key component of our recent matches.”
Joe Willock's game by numbers vs. West Ham United:
100% final third passes completed
88% pass accuracy
7 duels won (= most)
6 dribbles (most)
6 possessions won
5 shots (most)
1️⃣ point earned for the Magpies in the capital. pic.twitter.com/qrBMHeGFzH
— Squawka (@Squawka) February 19, 2022
On the relationship the squad has with Eddie Howe is palpable. Willock was full of praise for his manager, saying Howe is: “not only a brilliant manager but a brilliant person. He’s a manager that we all trust and we’re all buying into what he wants to do. A guy that I have a close relationship with I’m really he’s here, really happy how far he’s taking us. Long may it continue.”
“We wanna go into every game and win it, we’re not coming here to sit back and play on the counter, we’re coming here to press high and win football matches.” And with Joe Willock taking chances like he did today, they will probably win a whole lot of football matches!