Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion played out a frustrating goalless draw at St. James’ Park.
The visitors, who kept 71% possession – their highest number since becoming a Premier League club – were aggrieved not to take all three points.
As for the Magpies it was another difficult outing in front of their long-suffering fans with the point ensuring boss Steve Bruce equalled an unwanted record.
Naturally, there were individual winners and losers. Here are three of each from the draw.
Winner: Steven Alzate
He’s had to bide his time but Steven Alzate can finally call himself a Premier League footballer. Having signed for Brighton & Hove Albion in 2017, following their promotion, the Londoner must have dreamt of playing in the big time. However, Chris Hughton – despite featuring him on the bench in their 1-1 draw against Burnley in September of that year – felt Alzate was best placed to go out on loan.
— Brighton & Hove Albion ⚽️ (@OfficialBHAFC) September 21, 2019
Swindon Town became his new home, but injury cut that stay brief, and following Graham Potter’s appointment there was a sense of opportunity. He got that against Newcastle on Saturday and did not look out of place – being stationed on the left flank – and was unlucky not to break the deadlock.
Loser: Miguel Almirón
It’s not quite a year since Miguel Almirón last scored a league goal, but that milestone is approaching. You have to go back to November 11, 2018 when the Paraguayan attacking midfielder registered Atlanta United’s second in their 3-1 MLS Cup quarter-final second-leg playoff win over New York City FC.
However, if we are being pedantic, then Almirón’s previous regular season effort came 12 months ago on Friday. San Jose Earthquakes were his victims and through a string of impressive performances he’d earn a move to Europe but continues to wait for goal number one in black-and-white. It’s now 16 consecutive appearances, totalling 1,262 minutes, without a strike.
Winner: Dale Stephens
Having a new manager often equates to starting afresh whilst proving you belong in his subsequent plans. Since taking charge this summer Potter has pretty much chosen a selected team with no fewer than nine players featuring across each of Brighton’s opening five Premier League fixtures heading into this weekend. Of those four have played every single minute including Dale Stephens who put on a passing clinic at St. James’ Park.
Stephens’ calmness in possession makes him a central midfielder worthy of having. His distribution against Newcastle most definitely caught the eye, from 97 attempted passes, the Bolton-born midfielder completed all but three giving him a 96.9% passing accuracy. Such proficiency in terms of ball retention enabled the Seagulls to control large swathes of the game.
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Loser: Steve Bruce
He was never a popular choice in spite of his background. Steve Bruce, a proud Geordie, didn’t hesitate for a second to assume managerial leadership of his boyhood club when owner Mike Ashley called in the summer following the departure of Rafael Benitez whom supporters fell in love with. Having previously managed hated rivals Sunderland, where the former centre-back didn’t exactly pull up any trees, was another reason those who see the world in black-and-white were apprehensive of his appointment. That being said, Bruce was given a chance to win them over.
An opening weekend narrow loss to Arsenal (1-0) was followed by a humbling 3-1 defeat at Norwich City before they stunned last season’s Champions League finalist Spurs in their backyard. Since then they’ve picked up one point from six available, though no one gave them a chance of getting anything at Liverpool, so Saturday’s game was of the utmost importance.
For the club and Bruce himself; this goalless draw means he becomes only the second Newcastle manager after Steve McClaren to fail to win his opening three Premier League games at home.
Winner: Wolves and Villa
Newcastle’s recent slump – two points collected from the last nine available – is being cheered in the middle of the country. After their opening six matches they’ve accumulated five points; one more than Aston Villa, who have a game in hand which takes place at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Last year's visit to Selhurst.
— Wolves (@Wolves) September 21, 2019
A point behind them is last season’s ‘best of the rest’ Wolves, who have struggled to compete on two fronts now they’re a Europa League outfit, as one of two sides yet to win in 2019/20 so far – the other being Watford – this is an opportunity to escape the bottom three when they visit Crystal Palace.
Loser: St. James’ Park faithful
It’s never quiet in the North-East there’s always something going on. Supporters’ dissatisfaction with owner Mike Ashley is well-documented, yet many turn up in hope, football can be so addictive and it’s always worth remembering personnel – on the pitch and boardroom – come and go, but fans will always be there. Saturday’s game saw just over 43,000 in attendance, including England’s newest cricketing hero Ben Stokes, though such a number means this is the worst attended home game since a mid-week outing against Blackburn in 2010.
Aside from resenting the powers that be, it’s not as if these recent Newcastle home matches have been box office. If we include this latest meagre showing, it’s now one win from their last five played, during which time the Magpies have bagged six goals (with half of those coming in their 3-1 win over Southampton) but conceded seven. This also happened to be the third blank across that period.