Sam Allardyce said he is “baffled” by Everton’s poor defending before he arrived at the club after securing a third clean sheet in four games at luckless Newcastle.
Wayne Rooney’s solitary close-range goal was enough for the Toffees to win their first Premier League away game since January, and extended the hosts’ winless streak to eight games.
Newcastle’s miserable night was compounded deep into injury time when Jonjo Shelvey was sent off for an ugly lunge on Idrissa Gueye.
Rafa Benitez’s struggling side hit the woodwork twice through Matt Ritchie and Mikel Merino before the break, but always had to be wary of the Merseysiders’ Gylfi Sigurdsson-inspired counter-attacks.
Former Magpies manager Allardyce’s new club now move level on points with ninth-placed Watford, but Benitez’s men are just a point off the bottom three as takeover talks between owner Mike Ashley and a group led by businesswoman Amanda Staveley continue.
Everton had conceded 28 goals before Allardyce’s appointment in November, but have tightened up significantly since and a patched-up defence missing captain Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines and £25m summer signing Michael Keane have now conceded just once in four games.
They had to weather a late flurry from the hosts who threatened through Christian Atsu and dominated possession in the closing stages but could not find a way past Jordan Pickford.
“Their determination and drive has given us the opportunity to win a game 1-0,” said Allardyce. “I’m a little baffled at how Everton conceded so many goals before I got here.
“We’re up to 22 points so we’re pushing our way into the top half and it all comes from a good solid defensive base.
“The Christmas party is postponed. They won’t be anything near enjoying themselves until after the cup on 5 January.”
He has postponed the Christmas party while demanding “magic” in return from his players, and so far Allardcye is getting everything he wants at Everton.
There was no sign of sulking from his team on Tyneside, which already seems fitter and more focused than under previous manager Ronald Koeman, despite having a day less to recover than the hosts from the exertions of Sunday’s Merseyside derby.
So far as magic goes, Sigurdsson and Rooney are certainly showing some burgeoning alchemy in their link-up play. The Iceland international had struggled for form in the first part of the season but has become increasingly influential since Allardyce’s arrival, while Rooney has scored five.
Source BBC News
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