Newcastle suffered heartbreak in their bid for Premier League survival as Joao Pedro’s 88th minute header salvaged Watford a precious 1-1 draw at St. James’ Park.
Buoyed by the capacity crowd inside St. James’ Park Newcastle started with a great intensity. Only three minutes had elapsed when Allan Saint-Maximin’s shot was deflected through to Sean Longstaff inside the penalty area, although the ball just trickled beyond the midfielder.
The crossbar was then shaking for Newcastle just seven minutes later when Joelinton volleyed Ryan Fraser’s deflected cross towards goal from six yards out.
Joelinton was again left with his head in his hand after failing to convert Fraser’s pinpoint delivery, before Fabian Schar headed wide..
Watford fashioned their own crossing chance on the stroke of half time., but Josh King could only steer his header straight into the grateful arms of Martin Dubravka.
Whatever Eddie Howe said to his players at the interval worked a charm, as Saint-Maximin fired Newcastle ahead just three minutes into the second half.
The Frenchman had gotten little joy out of Jeremy Ngakia in the opening period, but he punished the full back’s indecision on the touchline before skipping infield and arrowing a ferocious effort into the bottom corner.
Watford ought to have pegged Newcastle back on the hour mark when they created two openings within a minute of each other. King was at the heart of both, breaking through the heart of the Newcastle backline before teeing up Joao Pedro. However, the Brazilian was leaning back with his effort and couldn’t generate the pace to trouble Dubravka.
The Hornets forward was then sent through one-on-one by a gorgeous threaded pass from Edo Kayembe, but his first touch was wayward and he prodded his effort straight at the Newcastle stopper.
Chances were coming thick and fast for the visitors on the break – Moussa Sissoko missing a glaring chance – and they were eventually rewarded when Kiko Femenia, who replaced Ngakia in the second half, stood up a delicious cross from the right and Joao Pedro rose highest to bullet his header home.
Here’s how both teams rated.
Martin Dubravka (GK) – 7/10 – Made a big stop to deny King one-on-one in the second half.
Kieran Trippier (RB) – 7/10 – His relationship with Fraser on the right hand side looked Newcastle’s best route to goal.
Fabian Schar (CB) – 7/10 – Really strong defensive performance and was a big threat at set pieces.
Jamaal Lascelles (CB) – 6/10 – Aggressive in his defending, often pinching the ball in midfield for Newcastle.
Paul Dummett (LB) – 6/10 – Restored to the side and produced a very impressive defensive display.
Jonjo Shelvey (CM) – 6/10 – Played as the sole defensive midfielder and kept Newcastle ticking.
Sean Longstaff (CM) – 5/10 – A threat to Watford’s defence with his late, off-the-ball runs from deep.
Joelinton (CM) – 7/10 – Powerful running from midfield, but passed up a few glaring opportunities.
Ryan Fraser (RW) – 8/10 – Looks very much back to his best under Howe, constantly putting Watford under pressure with his accurate deliveries from wide.
Chris Wood (ST) – 6/10 – Done as advertised upon his signing, challenging for absolutely everything which came his way.
Allan Saint-Maximin (LW) – 8/10 – Endured a very quiet first half, before exploding into life after the interval to provide the difference.
Jacob Murphy (RW) – N/A
Miguel Almiron (LW) – N/A
Ben Foster (GK) – 5/10 – Watford will benefit from his return from injury, but he could do little to prevent Saint-Maximin’s strike.
Jeremy Ngakia (RB) – 5/10 – A game of two halves. Had Saint-Maximin in his back pocket in the first half, but his error led to Newcastle’s goal and his head went down.
Craig Cathcart (CB) – 6/10 – A few hairy moments in the first half, but stood up well to what was thrown at him.
Samir (CB) – 7/10 – Handled the physical presence of Chris Wood with aplomb and may have given Ranieri food for thought going forward.
Hassane Kamara (LB) – 7/10 – One of three debut boys for the Hornets, using the ball well when required and not giving much away in one-on-one situations.
Moussa Sissoko (CM) – 3/10 – Uncharacteristically poor on his return to St. James’ Park, wasting a gilt-edged chance in the second half.
Juraj Kucka (CM) – 5/10 – Diligent in his defensive duties but struggled to offer much going in the opposite direction.
Edo Kayembe (CM) – 8/10 – Really impressive debut from the 23-year-old, constantly looking to move Watford into dangerous positions with his passing.
Emmanuel Dennis (RW) – 5/10 – Was probably wishing he was on Africa Cup of Nations duty right now. Not his best day.
Josh King (ST) – 3/10 – Never looked convincing in front of goal, passing up a hatful of chances when they appeared easier to miss.
Joao Pedro (LW) – 8/10 – Looked Watford’s most menacing attacking threat throughout, and was rewarded for his endeavour with a late equaliser.
Kiko Femenia (RB) – 7/10 – A quality delivery allowed Joao Pedro to level matters up late on.
Tom Cleverley (CM) – N/A
Cucho Hernandez (RW) – N/A