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Rafa's boys thrash hapless QPR

PARTY TIME: Newcastle enjoy one of six goals against Rangers

THE LAST time Newcastle United played in the capital they endured the ignominy of an opening day defeat against Fulham. Their promotion chances were subsequently questioned and Rafa Benitez’s ability to mastermind a return to the Premier League came under scrutiny. A month and eight days later they arrived at Loftus Road a rejuvenated side as their record equalling victory showed why they are a force to be reckoned with in this league.

Ever since the nadir of their season against Fulham, the Magpies have proved their doubters wrong. Their pulsating 6-0 win over QPR, which equals their biggest away win in the league since 1962, encompasses their winning streak to five games and reaffirms why they have now been earmarked as a side already assured of a promotion spot despite eight months of the season remaining.

With ten minutes on the clock Ayoze Perez almost engineered a breakthrough for the visitors only for his outstretched leg, via deflection off Jonjo Shelvey, adjudged to be offside by the linesman.

Aleksandar Mitrovic was making his first start of the season for Newcastle and it was not long until they were able to bring him into the reckoning. The striker sprinted down the left channel and his pace proved no match for Nedum Onuoha. But as Mitrovic weighed up his options, Onuoha attempted to close him down which proved futile in the end when Mitrovic squared it to Shelvey on the edge of the area – whose deflected shot, off Karl Henry, continued on its merry way into the net to deservedly put the away side in front.

This contest had not even reached the half-hour mark and Newcastle were already serenely comfortable. They kept the ball with so much more refinement than their opponents and were rampant in their pursuit of establishing a two-goal cushion. Matt Ritchie picked up the ball in the centre of midfield and shot from an almost implausible distance forcing a heavily tested Alex Smithies to make a spectacular finger tip save.

To compound matters for the hosts, James Perch was brought off on a stretcher with a suspected knee injury with Pawel Wszolek summoned from the bench. Having arrived on home soil with a poor record against their opponents it was always going to prove arduous for Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink’s men to make amends at this embryonic stage of the season.

Ritchie was at the heart of things once more and his elusive movement concluded with the winger threading a well-timed pass to Perez whose initial shot was saved by Smithies but he was unable to deny him for a second time. It was turning into a case of how many. Hasslebaink needed half time for respite. When Perez doubled Newcastle’s lead, the QPR manager crossed his arms behind his back, looked to his coaching staff then looked towards the heavens. If he needed to make a prayer then now was the time.

Aside from Henry’s tame effort shortly after the break, there were few indications of major encouragement. And things were about to get a whole lot worse for the team in white and blue. Eager to justify his extended run in the team, Shelvey was one of the bright sparks in Newcastle’s performance. With an attack stemming from the left flank, the midfielder took an extra touch at goal, set his sights at Smithies and scored arguably one of the goals of the season with a jaw dropping curling effort from 25 yards.

The home side were down and out and in keeping with Kell Brook’s bout against Gennady Golovkin at the weekend, a towel was desperately needed to prematurely put an end to this one-sided affair. Shortly after, a corner-kick floated in by Ritchie in the 56th minute met the head of Ciaran Clark to sensationally make it 4-0. Surely that was it?

But on the basis of this performance, the inevitable fifth goal was not long in coming. Second half substitute Christian Atsu, brought on in place of Yoan Gouffran, cut inside from the right and fired a low ball across the face of goal where Mitrovic benefited from a deflection to gleefully slot it home.

But it was the sixth goal which was the most satisfying. By this point QPR were already down and out while the visiting enclosure were schadenfreude of their misfortune. Clark volleyed a corner back into the box where Grant Hanley side-footed his effort to open his account for his new team. A late chance from Atsu thudded against the crossbar, but victory had long been secured.

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