Newcastle edge past gutsy Blackburn on penalties to reach FA Cup quarter-finals

By Sports Desk February 27, 2024

Martin Dubravka saved twice as Newcastle beat Blackburn 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in a compelling FA Cup fifth-round tie at Ewood Park on Tuesday.

The Newcastle goalkeeper denied Sammie Szmodics and Dom Hyam from the spot to secure a nervy victory after the Premier League outfit were taken all the way by the side 16th in the Sky Bet Championship.

Blackburn had enjoyed the upper hand for large spells of the game, but fell behind when Anthony Gordon broke the deadlock after 71 minutes.

Rovers hit back and forced extra time with an equaliser from the impressive Szmodics, but neither side could find a winner before it fell to spot-kicks to determine the outcome.

The game was delayed by 15 minutes to allow all fans to get into the ground and was then slow to get going, the first thing of note being a tennis ball protest by Blackburn fans.

Supporters frustrated at the club’s continued ownership by Indian poultry firm Venky’s, which is now in its 14th year, symbolically lobbed balls onto the field in the 14th minute.

The delay was brief and when the action resumed it was Blackburn who settled quicker.

Szmodics was the main Rovers dangerman and went close when he lashed a shot into the side-netting.

Tyrhys Dolan broke into the box and drew a good save from Dubravka, whose fingertip touch deflected the ball past Szmodics.

Szmodics then tried his luck from long range, finding only the keeper, before beating Fabian Schar and testing Dubravka again.

Newcastle offered little before the break aside from an angled Sean Longstaff strike which did not trouble Aynsley Pears.

Rovers started the second half the brighter and Dolan called Dubravka into action again with a firm strike from the edge of the area.

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe changed the balance just after the hour as he sent on Miguel Almiron, Lewis Miley and Ashley Barnes in a triple change.

The Magpies began to take control and Blackburn had to scramble clear after a Kieran Trippier header was blocked on the line.

Longstaff headed over from a corner and Gordon should have done better than shoot straight at Pears after being played through.

Gordon made amends for that as he made the breakthrough 19 minutes from time, calmly stroking home after a good run and neat cutback by Almiron.

It felt harsh on Rovers but, rather than lie down and accept defeat, the hosts rallied.

Newcastle’s lead lasted eight minutes as Arnor Sigurdsson broke down the right and picked out Dilan Markanday, who thumped a first-time shot against the bar.

Szmodics was the quickest to react to the rebound and coolly guided the bouncing ball into the net.

Rovers almost snatched victory in stoppage time as Yasin Ayari’s deflected shot was saved by Dubravka with his legs.

Newcastle had the first opportunity in extra time, but Pears produced a brilliant double save to deny Gordon and Longstaff at close quarters.

The visitors looked certain to score in the 112th minute when Gordon broke into the box and ball was squared for Bruno Guimares, but Scott Wharton miraculously blocked on the line.

Szmodics had another chance at the other end, but again Dubravka was alert.

It was Dubravka who proved the hero in the shoot-out, although it went to the final kick after Barnes had his effort saved, as he tipped Hyam’s shot onto the post.

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