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Howe: Newcastle’s penalty win a ‘big moment in our season’

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.

Follow the FA Cup draw with Sky Sports

The FA Cup quarter-final draw will take place from 7pm on Wednesday and you can follow it live on the Sky Sports website and app.

Rovers captain Dominic Hyam missed the key penalty
Image: Rovers captain Dominic Hyam missed the key penalty

Eddie Howe said: “Obviously a lot was riding on the outcome so I thought the players handled the moment brilliantly, the goalkeeper and outfield players who took the penalties.

“It was big moment in our season at such a crucial stage. The players are desperate to achieve. No one is underestimating the importance of the FA Cup.”

How Newcastle edged past gutsy Blackburn

Newcastle had lost their previous two FA Cup shootouts
Image: Newcastle had lost their previous two FA Cup shootouts

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 took 7,000 fans to Ewood Park
Image: Newcastle took 7,500 fans to Ewood Park

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

Former Burnley defender Kieran Trippier in action
Image: Former Burnley defender Kieran Trippier in action

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.

Anthony Gordon celebrates his opener
Image: Anthony Gordon celebrates his opener

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.

Blackburn's Sammie Szmodics, right, celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during the English FA Cup fifth round soccer match between Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle, at Ewood Park stadium, in Blackburn, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)
Image: Blackburn responded immediately through Sam Szmodics

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 the 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.

Eustace: We’re improving game by game

Blackburn's Sammie Szmodics, center, celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during the English FA Cup fifth round soccer match between Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle, at Ewood Park stadium, in Blackburn, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)
Image: Szmodics celebrates his sixth FA Cup strike of the season

Blackburn boss John Eustace said: “When it goes down to penalties it’s a bit of a lottery but I’m very, very proud of the squad that we used and also very proud of the supporters.

“I couldn’t ask for any more effort and desire and togetherness. You can see that everyone’s really fighting and looking after each other and you can see the style of play improving game by game.

“We’re making small steps forward. We’re playing against a top Premier League team, top players, and you could see that we could hurt them in certain areas. On another day we could have had a couple more goals.”

Howe: Dubravka deserves huge credit

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe praised the heroics of Dubravka after the Slovakia keeper had been ill in the build-up to the game.

He said: “The two penalty saves were huge for us but in open play I thought he really performed well and we needed him to because they had a few big moments.

“He’s been playing feeling slightly ill and he deserves huge credit for doing that. He was nowhere near fit for the weekend against Arsenal and hasn’t been 100 per cent for quite a long period of time.

“I thought we got better as it went on. I don’t think the first half was particularly good, I thought the second half was better and extra-time was our best spell of the game by a long way.

“Really we shouldn’t have allowed it to go to penalties with the chances we missed in extra-time.”

What’s next?

Blackburn visit Swansea on Saturday as they look to ease their relegation worries in the Championship on Saturday, kick-off at 3pm.

Newcastle host Wolves on Saturday as they look to bounce back from their humbling at Arsenal last weekend, kick-off at 3pm.

Sky News
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