Belfast Telegraph

One of the best nights of my life – Longstaff hails ‘unbelievable’ win over City

The 21-year-old has been thrown in at the deep end amid a midfield injury crisis at Newcastle.

Newcastle midfielder Sean Longstaff enjoyed his “perfect night” against Manchester City (Joe Giddens/PA)
Newcastle midfielder Sean Longstaff enjoyed his “perfect night” against Manchester City (Joe Giddens/PA)

Sean Longstaff enjoyed his “perfect night” as he rubbed shoulders with Manchester City’s aristocrats and got the better of them.

The 21-year-old Newcastle academy graduate has been thrown in at the deep end in recent weeks, with Jonjo Shelvey, Mohamed Diame and Ki Sung-yueng all injured.

But, having cut his teeth in defeats to Liverpool and Chelsea around the turn of the year, he was pitched into battle with City stars Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Leroy Sane at St James’ Park on Tuesday evening and emerged on the right end of a 2-1 scoreline.

Longstaff said: “It’s unbelievable for me to be able to see where I am, as a young 21-year-old lad, trying to break in to see what the top level is.

“Obviously you want to get into the Premier League, but that [playing against Manchester City] is a different level.

“That’s Champions League, that’s some of the best players in the world on the pitch, so, for me to be able to play against them first-hand is unbelievable.

“If there was a perfect night, it would be to beat probably one of the top teams in the world at a place like St James’ with the fans helping us get over the line.

“It was unbelievable, and probably one of the best nights of my life so far.”

If Longstaff was scarcely able to take in what unfolded during an eventful 90 minutes, he was not alone.

A crowd of 50,861 had turned up expecting Rafael Benitez to make it difficult for City to close the gap on leaders Liverpool, but for the visitors to do it just the same.

The locals arrived too ready to vent their collective spleen at Magpies owner Mike Ashley and his running of the club, with talk of a takeover now all but dead and the January transfer window proving as frustrating as those which have preceded it.

However, as kick-off approached, news that a club record deal had been struck to sign Atlanta United’s Paraguay international playmaker Miguel Almiron emerged and, with progress being made too on Monaco full-back Antonio Barreca, was greeted hopefully, if with caution.

The mood change somewhat when Sergio Aguero fired the visitors into the lead with just 24 seconds on the clock, but Salomon Rondon’s 66th-minute equaliser set the stage for Matt Ritchie to snatch an unlikely victory from the penalty spot with 10 minutes remaining and put a smile back on Benitez’s face.

He has cut an increasingly frustrated figure in recent weeks and it remains to be seen whether the club has shown enough ambition to persuade him to extend his own stay on Tyneside.

In the meantime, he will focus purely on his rescue mission, if with an extra spring in his step.

Benitez said: “This one is an important game for us because it will give us more confidence, but the main one will be the last one when we get the points to stay up, that’s it.”

PA

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