Ayoze Perez sets Newcastle two-win target for survival
Ayoze Perez has set Newcastle a two-win target to secure Premier League survival after firing them to a remarkable comeback victory over Everton.
Perez struck twice inside three minutes during the final stages of Saturday’s clash with Everton at St James’ Park to seal a 3-2 win after they had trailed 2-0 at half-time and also seen a Matt Ritchie penalty saved.
It was the Magpies’ fifth successive home league win, something they last achieved in 2004, and it could hardly have been more timely on a day when Brighton, Southampton and Cardiff also collected three points.
They sit six points clear of the bottom three with eight games remaining and while Perez insists they cannot yet start to look upwards rather than over their shoulder, he knows how close they are.
He told NUFC TV: “That would be wrong. We have to keep the momentum but obviously, it’s still not done.
“We have to get that number that makes you be safe 100 per cent, so two more wins and you forget about the relegation battle and that’s it.
“Then you can start to dream and start trying to improve and get as high as you can.”
The final scoreline does not even begin to tell the story of a game which looked to be hurtling out of Newcastle’s grasp before they reeled it back in with England keeper Jordan Pickford at the centre of much of the action.
Pickford, who received the traditional welcome for a former Sunderland player on Tyneside, was fortunate to be on the pitch after hauling Salomon Rondon to the ground in his pursuit of a spilled cross with his side already leading courtesy of Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s 18th-minute header.
Referee Lee Mason, who endured a difficult afternoon, awarded a penalty but no more, and the Magpies’ frustration was compounded not only by Pickford’s save from Ritchie, but by Richarlison’s finish at the other end seconds later.
However, the real drama was to come inside the final 25 minutes, Rondon volleying home after a deft exchange with Perez, who then scored twice in quick succession, for the first time after Pickford could only parry Miguel Almiron’s shot and the second with the help of a generous offside decision which left Toffees boss Marco Silva fuming.
Perez said: “The celebration in the corner was really something that I won’t forget.”
For all they were aggrieved by the manner of the winning goal – Silva angrily confronted Mason on the final whistle – Everton had only themselves to blame for an alarming capitulation.
Calvert-Lewin told the club’s official website, www.evertonfc.com: “We were in control, but stopped doing the things which earned us that two-goal cushion.
“Once they scored, the momentum of the game changed and we cannot let that happen. We should have gone on to score the third goal and after the first-half performance, it looked like we might.”