Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 0: Merino leaves it late to sink Eagles

Newcastle looked to be heading for a fourth match in succession without a win before Mikel Merino nodded home against Crystal Palace.

Crystal Palace were denied their first away Premier League point of the season as Mikel Merino's late header earned Newcastle United a 1-0 win at St James' Park.

Fresh from a long-awaited maiden victory of the campaign against champions Chelsea last weekend, Roy Hodgson's visitors had been the most threatening side in a game desperately lacking in quality and goal-mouth action on Saturday.

Wilfried Zaha was the Eagles' most lively attacking outlet and should have scored after 40 minutes, instead heading wide from Andros Townsend's cross.

The first half's biggest talking point was a thundering challenge from Yohan Cabaye on DeAndre Yedlin, which could easily have seen the Frenchman receive his marching orders. Referee Stuart Attwell, however, deemed it worthy of only a caution.

Rafael Benitez's side offered nothing in an attacking sense for much of the contest, with Mohamed Diame and Jonjo Shelvey's shots from distance among their only chances of note.

But a late flurry of pressure saw Merino climb highest to head past Julian Speroni from a corner, his first Newcastle goal earning three much-needed points for the promoted side.

The result ends Newcastle's winless of three games, while Palace remain rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table with just three points from nine games.

Palace, clearly buoyed by last weekend's 2-1 win over Antonio Conte's title-holders, started in composed fashion and looked dangerous going forward in the opening 15 minutes, without truly threatening to penetrate the Newcastle backline. 

They had to wait until the 23rd minute for their first real sight of goal, with Zaha's deflected effort from an angle comfortably gathered by Rob Elliot. 

Matt Ritchie then saw a weak half-volley deflected wide before Cabaye, returning to the club he left in 2014, incensed the home fans with a wild lunge on Yedlin and escaped with just a yellow card. 

Christian Atsu created the hosts' best opening of the half 10 minutes before the break, bustling past Joel Ward and crashing a fierce strike into the side netting. 

Zaha then squandered a wonderful opportunity to open the scoring just moments before the interval. Townsend did well to make space down the right and clip a cross to the back post, but the Ivorian could only send his header tamely wide.

Zaha and Townsend continued to look sharp at the start of the second period, but the lack of an out-and-out attacker saw a number of good opportunities fizzle out. 

Townsend took matters into his own hands midway through the second period, whipping a powerful left-foot strike just over Elliot's crossbar. 

Inexplicably, Newcastle's first shot on target did not come until the 71st minute, when Diame's curled shot was held by Speroni. Shelvey followed this soon after with a drive that was repelled by the previously underworked Palace goalkeeper.

Patrick van Aanholt was then just inches away from connecting with Ruben Loftus-Cheek's low cross before the hosts grabbed their unlikely winner. 

Merino, who had been introduced in the 55th minute for Isaac Hayden, repaid his manager's faith with a towering header to secure all three points and get Newcastle's faltering season back on track.


Key Opta stats:

- Rafael Benitez has never lost a home league game in English football against a coach who has also managed the English national team (W17 D4).
- Crystal Palace have failed to score in their last seven Premier League away games – their longest such run in the top-flight.
- Mikel Merino scored his first ever Premier League goal in what was his ninth appearance in the competition. 
- The Magpies have lost only one of their last 10 Premier League games on home soil (W6 D3 L1).
- Crystal Palace failed to land a single shot on target in this match despite attempting 10 shots.
- It's the second time the Eagles have failed to register a shot on target since Roy Hodgson took charge (also v Man City).
- Newcastle haven't lost a home Premier League game against a side starting that day bottom since March 1998, winning seven and drawing five.