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Newcastle United 0 Everton 1: Karl Darlow error proves costly as Magpies slip to seventh loss in eight

Wayne Rooney turns home in the opening 45
Wayne Rooney turns home in the opening 45

A Karl Darlow howler proved costly for Newcastle United as Wayne Rooney's first-half strike consigned them to their seventh defeat in eight.

The former England skipper netted midway through the opening 45 to ensure Rafa Benitez's men yet again left St James's Park empty-handed, for the fourth home game on the bounce.

United got off to yet another bright start with Matt Ritchie's rasping effort ratting Jordan Pickford's post.

Then, out of nowhere, hosts were behind.

And the opener was, as has proved to be the case so often this season, preventable. This time it was Karl Darlow shooting himself in the foot.

Aaron Lennon's header from a Dominic Calvert-Lewin cross, was spilled by the United keeper and Rooney, so often the Magpies' menace, tucked home from close range for 1-0.

Not deterred by falling behind, United remained positive. And before the break they came within inches of being level when Mikel Merino lined up a 30 yard strike, only to see it cannon of Pickford's other post.

Benitez's side continued to impress into the second 45 - Florian Lejeune went close with a header across the box, which Mo Diame almost turned home.

But as the half wore on, and the Toffees retreated United also began to lose a little bit of their fluency, so evident in the first half.

And they were almost made to pay further when Everton's Ashley Williams connecting with a free-kick from deep - but Darlow was this time equal to it, tipping round the post acrobatically.

Benitez threw caution to the wind late on, introducing Rolando Aarons and Joselu chasing an all-important leveller, but United never really got close to rescuing a point. Instead they head to Arsenal on Saturday, ahead of a hectic festive period, on a horror run. And they will do so without the services of Jonjo Shelvey, who was sent off for a second bookable offence on the final whistle.

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Darlow; Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Manquillo; Merino (Perez 86), Shelvey; Ritchie (Aarons 73), Diame (Joselu 66), Atsu; Gayle.

Subs not used: Elliot, Clark, Hayden, Murphy.

EVERTON: Pickford, Schneiderlin, Williams, Rooney (Davies 76), Lennon (Vlasic 61), Martina, Gueye, Sigurdsson (Jagielka 84), Calvert-Lewin, Holgate, Kenny.

Subs not used: Robles, Keane, Niasse, Lookman.

Goal: Rooney 27

Bookings: Shelvey 43 & 90, Holgate 48, Merino 56, Calvert-Lewin 90

Sent off: Shelvey

Referee: Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire)

Attendance: 51, 042