Joe Willock’s thunderous second-half goal earned Newcastle United a gritty 1-0 win over Chelsea at St James’ Park on Saturday and consolidated third place in the Premier League in its final fixture before the World Cup.
Miguel Almiron cut inside Chelsea defender Kalidou Koulibaly and nudged the ball into the path of the onrushing Willock, who unleashed a powerful first-time effort that flew past goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to bag his second league goal in as many games.
After a fifth straight league win, Newcastle has 30 points and sit two points behind second-placed Manchester City while Chelsea is level on 21 points with Brighton & Hove Albion but behind its in eighth place, having played a game more.
Newcastle had a penalty appeal turned down after defender Dan Burn’s cross hit Trevoh Chalobah’s flailing arm late in the first half while Chelsea forward Armando Broja registered the only shot on target in an otherwise uneventful opening period.
Five minutes after the restart, Newcastle came close to taking the lead when Joelinton kept alive Kieran Trippier’s cross but Chris Wood was unable to connect and Mendy scrambled the ball away.
Almiron then cut it back for Sean Longstaff, who blazed his effort over the bar, while Wood was inches away from meeting Willock’s fine cross a few minutes later as Newcastle pushed for an opener but lacked a clinical edge.
Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher forced a flying save from Newcastle goalkeeper Nick Pope in the 66th minute as the visitors sprung into life, but any momentum they would have built from its best attack of the game was wiped out by Willock in the very next minute.
“I have been practising shooting in training to be fair. I have been missing scoring in front of these fans so to get a goal today is brilliant for me and the team,” Willock said.
“The manager put in a good game plan and we deserved to win. In the first half we dominated and the last pass wasn’t quite there. We got the goal and the clean sheet.”