Newcastle eye seventh FA Cup title after avoiding derby-day banana skin at Sunderland
SUNDERLAND: The remit was clear. Win at all costs. Defeat was unthinkable. And 90 minutes and three goals later, Newcastle United showed there are levels to this game, as they dispatched fierce local rivals Sunderland 3-0 in the third round of the FA Cup.
Not content with taking the derby-day spoils, not the least of which was local pride, defender Dan Burn now wants the Magpies to go all the way and life the trophy. With Champions League and Carabao Cup heartache still fresh in the minds of players and fans, after the club exited both competitions in December in the cruelest of fashions, Burn said he wants to make this year’s FA Cup run count.
“We spoke about it the last two seasons; we want to win something. It has been so long since we won something and it would be amazing to win the FA Cup,” said the Geordie.
“I think there was a lot of build up to the game, so to come through with a win and a clean sheet is great.”
Saturday’s game was a long time coming; it was the first time in nearly eight years that famous old foes Newcastle and Sunderland had faced each other.
“It has been a long time since we’ve played this type of game,” said Burn. “If you ask fans whether they would rather advance in the Champions League or beat Sunderland, I think they would pick beating Sunderland. It was a great day and the crowd really made it.
“We’ve had a lot of games, so it has been hard to train and habits have fallen away a bit, but that was back to us today, the way we pressed and fought.”
The match was billed as a test of the ages, a game the likes of which had not been seen in North East England since 2016, due in no small part to Sunderland’s slide down the English football pyramid, and its subsequent climb back up to the Championship.
However, the reality on the day proved to be a different matter. The visiting Magpies, who had been expected to face a trial by fire, allowed the home side zero shots in the opening 45 minutes, and went in at the break a goal to the good, courtesy of a Dan Ballard own goal.
Then they really turned on the magic, with Swede Alexander Isak earning a place in Tyne-Wear derby folklore with a second-half brace. The first, moments after play resumed, came in typical, high-pressure Newcastle style, and the second from the penalty spot. He was the first Newcastle player to score in the derby fixture since Aleksandar Mitrovic, now with Al-Hilal, in 2016.
Not only did his efforts help Newcastle progress to round four, they also perhaps eased a bit of the pressure head coach Eddie Howe has been feeling after his side lost seven out of eight games in all competitions leading up to the match on Saturday.
“It feels great (to win). I never worried about the draw, I always thought it was a great draw, as long as we won it,” said Howe. “We handled the occasion well, were brave with the ball and were very composed. We didn’t let the crowd take over and we handled everything really well in the first half.
“I think we are still a bit off our best but it was a step in the right direction. Hopefully the forward momentum can continue. If you look at the size of the games we’ve had this year, this was nothing new. We’ve handled big occasions really well this year.
“We had to do the little bits right today and that’s what happened. It keeps us in an important competition and that brings hope. The Premier League doesn’t get easy with fixtures, so this game was important.”
Next up for the Magpies is a visit from FIFA Club World Cup champions Manchester City next Saturday. To add to United’s injury concerns, Joelinton was forced to leave the match against Sunderland with a thigh issue.
Howe, already missing nine of his first-team players, said: “Our negative (from the game) is the injury to Joelinton… He looks like he’s got a bit of a knock. Unfortunately, we don’t know what it is yet.”