Christian Atsu free-kick and Isaac Hayden strike keep Toon title hopes alive


In the hunt

Magpies are already promoted under Rafa Benitez but could overtake leaders Brighton if results go their way

NEWCASTLE’S dream of beating the Seagulls is still alive after this comfortable win over the Bluebirds.

But the Toon will not go up as champs if Brighton beat Bristol City on Saturday evening, and the Geordies will have to settle for second best.

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Rafa Benitez knows his men still have a chance of finishing top of the Championship

In front of 4,000 travelling fans the Geordies did all they could.

Second half goals from Christian Atsu and Isaac Hayden gave them the three points they needed.

Newcastle’s build up to the game had been dominated by the news of an HMRC investigation into alleged tax evasion and National Insurance fraud at the club.

Boss Raphael Benitez had confirmed the matter was connected to transfers at the club that took place four or five years ago.

If the issue had affected the players over the previous 48 hours, they certainly weren’t showing it.

The visitors needed to win or draw to keep alive their hopes of pinching the title from Brighton.

Benitez made five changes from the side that defeated Preston to clinch promotion on Monday.

City boss Neil Warnock decided to change six of his starting line up from last weekend with Greg Halford getting a rare start.

Newcastle dominated the ball from the first whistle with Bruno Manga forced to block a goalbound shot from Atsu inside two minutes.

Jack Colback flashed a cross-shot across the face of the goal shortly after as Cardiff were pinned back.

Christian Atsu’s nonchalant free-kick was a sight to behold


Christian Atsu’s nonchalant free-kick was a sight to behold

Cardiff’s only real chance in the opening 15 minutes saw Aron Gunnarsson force a decent save from Rob Elliot.

Atsu was proving a real thorn in Cardiff’s right hand side. Time and again he skipped inside full back Jazz Richards and threatened Allan McGregor’s goal.

To their credit Cardiff remained in good spirits and slowly gained a foothold. In fact it was Neil Warnock’s side who were first to find the net. Sean Morrison rose to head home Peter Whittingham’s corner, only to see his effort ruled out for a push.

Craig Noone came on after 24 minutes as a sub for the injured Kadeem Harris.

The Bluebirds worked tirelessly to stop the Geordies at source. On half an hour, they had the ball in the net for a second time.

Junior Hoilett stroked the ball home but Gunnarsson had already been ruled offside.

The Ghanaian opened the scoring in style and Newcastle never looked back

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The Ghanaian opened the scoring in style and Newcastle never looked back

Successive corners from the dead-ball master Whittingham caused no end of concern in the Newcastle box.

Thankfully, for Benitez, Morrison was twice unable to beat Elliot with headers.

At the opposite end, Newcastle came close to striking on the counter attack.

Mohamed Diame’s raking pass fell to the feet of Deandre Yedlin whose crisp shot was pushed behind for a corner by McGregor.

Ciaran Clark then headed over when he should have done much better.

Newcastle felt they should have had a penalty shortly after when Greg Halford tugged on the shirt of Ayoze Perez. Newcastle’s claims were waved away.

Isaac Hayden ensured Newcastle left Cardiff with all three points in the bag

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Isaac Hayden ensured Newcastle left Cardiff with all three points in the bag
Newcastle players celebrate in changing room after gaining promotion to the Premier League

The visitors started the second half at a decent lick too.

But it was Cardiff who should have taken the lead in the 49th minute.

Noone found himself free at the far post but somehow dragged his shot five yards wide with only Elliot to beat.

The breakthrough came in the 55th minute thanks to that man Atsu.

The little winger was tripped by Morrison on the edge of the Cardiff box.

He picked himself up, dusted himself down and beat McGregor with an unstoppable free kick from 20 yards.

Hayden made the points safe in the 64th minute when he beat McGregor from 25 yards.

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