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Soccer News of Sunday, 11 December 2016

Source: Goal.com

Atsu plays as Newcastle return to winning ways

Christian Atsu’s Newcastle United returned to winning ways on Saturday courtesy of a 4-0 bashing of Birmingham City in the Championship.

The Geordies had lost their last two matches in the division following their impressive nine-match winning run.

Rafael Benitez’s men suddenly hit a brick wall as they lost successively to Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers, which allowed Brighton and Hove Albion to close the gap at the top of the table.

But it was an inspired Newcastle that showed up at St James’ Park on Saturday. They crushed their visitors in a manner that showed they had put behind their recent troubles.

Striker Dwight Gayle notched a hat trick for the hosts with Yoan Gouffran scoring the fourth. Gayle got a brace in the first half as Gouffran scored early after the break.

Benitez sent on Atsu on 70 minutes in place of Gouffran for his 11th game of the season. The pressure on the Birmingham defence paid off as Gayle got his third of the game seven minutes later.

Atsu is one of the players that Ghana coach Avram Grant is hoping would be in great shape for next month’s Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon as the Black Stars plan to halt their 34-year-long winless run.