Miles Starforth's match analysis: Everton 1 Newcastle United 0
Rafa Benitez didn't learn too much about Islam Slimani at Goodison Park '“ as his team just couldn't get the ball to him.
Benitez’s 100th game in charge of Newcastle United ended in defeat.
A second-half strike from Theo Walcott saw Everton win 1-0 last night to end a four-game winning run.
Benitez’s players, however, were still applauded off the field by the club’s fans.
Before the game, manager Benitez had suggested that he was prepared to change a winning team so he could take a look at a number of players, including striker Slimani, who have something to prove at the club.
And Benitez did just that. Slimani made his first start for the club almost three months after arriving on loan from Leicester City. The 29-year-old didn’t get a sight of goal on his full debut.
Otherwise, Benitez named an unchanged team at Goodison Park, where United were backed by 3,000 fans in one end of the Bullens Road stand.
Earlier in the day it had been claimed that owner Mike Ashley was now looking for up to £400million for the club, which was put on the market late last year.
If a sale is to happen, it will need to happen quickly, and Benitez – who will sit down with Ashley at the end of the season – knows that the chances of a takeover have receded over the past few months.
And Benitez’s planned end-of-season meeting with Ashley is pivotal to the club’s future. There’s still work to be done on the field before they meet.
Newcastle had conceded three goals on four of their previous visits to Goodison Park, but they were facing a home side which had been struggling for form under Sam Allardyce, who had found an unlikely ally in Benitez, his old foe, ahead of the fixture.
Benitez labelled the fan survey which asked supporters to rate Allaradyce’s performance as a “massive mistake”.
A banner in the Gwlady’s Street end of the stadium read “Our survey says get out of our club”. United fans taunted Everton supporters with a chant of “you’ve got Sam Allardyce”.
There was less happening on the pitch. Everton saw more of the ball, but they couldn’t break their visitors down.
At the other end of the pitch, ex-Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, booed by Newcastle supporters, didn’t have a save to make in the first half. Newcastle never got into their stride on the counter-attack.
Phil Jagielka had the half’s best chance, but he couldn’t hit the target at the far post.
There was a let-off for Everton at the other end of the pitch after Kenedy chased down a kick from Pickford. The ball rebounded to Ayoze Perez, but his pass ran away from Slimani.
Perez couldn’t take advantage of a chance after being played in by Kenedy after the break. Within seconds, United were behind.
Newcastle failed to deal with a deep cross from Yannick Bolasie, and Walcott turned and shot past Dubravka from just outside the six-yard box. It was a sloppy goal to concede
The goal sparked United into life, but they just couldn’t keep hold of the ball, and Gayle soon replaced Slimani. Gayle put a shot over second after coming on, and a 73rd-minute header from Perez was the team’s first effort on target.
Newcastle pushed late in the game, and Everton had Seamus Coleman to thank for a late clearance.
And Allardyce, again, had had the last laugh.