Miles Starforth's match analysis: Pride in Wembley defeat for Newcastle United
It wasn't quite the scoreline you'd want after an 18-year wait for an appearance at Wembley.
But there was pride in defeat for Newcastle United at last night.
A goal from Harry kane saw Rafa Benitez’s side beaten 1-0 at the stadium.
But Benitez’s side were better, much better, than they had been a few miles away at Vicarage Road last weekend.
United were given 3,132 tickets by Tottenham, but the club could have sold many, many more to visiting fans.
Newcastle’s previous game at Wembley had been in 2000, when the club, then managed by Sir Bobby Robson, had been beaten 2-1 by Chelsea in an FA Cup semi-final.
United visited the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff once for another FA Cup semi-final during Wembley’s lengthy reconstruction.
Since then? Nothing. At least Tottenham’s temporary relocation away from White Hart Lane allowed some supporters to see their team at the national stadium.
United arrived at Wembley with “no momentum”, in Benitez’s words, after three successive defeats.
Benitez had talked about making up to five changes after last weekend’s defeat to Watford.
However, Newcastle’s manager didn’t have too many options, and settled on recalling DeAndre Yedlin and Matt Ritchie to his starting XI. Mikel Merino, again, was left on the bench.
Ex-United midfielder Moussa Sissoko was handed a start for Tottenham, who had won 2-0 at St James’s Park on the opening day of the season when Jonjo Shelvey was dismissed for stamping on Dele Alli and Harry Kane brought an abrupt end to Florian Lejeune’s debut.
Tottenham, under pressure from fifth-placed Chelsea, tried to take the game to United, who had Martin Dubravka, one of five Newcastle players to have previously played at Wembley, to thank for keeping out a Christian Eriksen free-kick.
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The home side had the post to thank a few minutes later.
Dwight Gayle was brought down by Moussa Sissoko just outside the box, and Jonjo Shelvey struck the woodwork with the resulting free-kick. So far, so good.
Captain Jamaal Lascelles was even closer with a header from a short corner routine – Hugo Loris got a hand to it – and Gayle headed over from an Ayoze Perez cross.
Frustrated Tottenham fans attempted to rouse their team as the half-time break approached, but Pochettino’s side couldn’t break Newcastle down and there were a few boos when the half-time whistle was blown by referee Neil Swarbrick.
Benitez’s players, by contrast, were applauded off the field by the visiting supporters tucked into one corner of the cavernous stadium.
The mood changed in the 50th minute. Kane exchanged passes with Heung-Min Son before beating Dubravka with a shot from just inside a crowded box.
Tottenham were a different team after scoring. The game opened up, and they moved the ball well.
United subsitute Jacob Murphy, on for Kenedy, wasn’t far away with a shot seconds after coming on, while Dubravka denied Danny Rose late in the game.
Newcastle’s players were warmly, and deservedly, applauded off the field at the final whistle after what was a fourth consecutive defeat.
Only a convincing win over Chelsea on Sunday will guarantee United a 10th-placed finish.
But, on this evidence, Newcastle’s players have another performance left in them this season.