Rafael Benitez admitted it would be “almost impossible” for Salomon Rondon to fill Alan Shearer’s boots after seeing him turn in a fine centre-forward display against Bournemouth.
The Venezuela international scored two first-half goals, the second of them a Shearer-like bullet header, to secure a 2-1 victory at St James’ Park, the Magpies second win in eight days after a barren start to the campaign.
His hold-up play, tireless running and the pressure under which he put the Cherries defence as well as his finishing rekindled memories of some of his predecessors in the famous number nine shirt, but Benitez was keen not to place too much weight on his shoulders.
The Spaniard said: “We are talking about different players, different times. To go close to Alan Shearer would be almost impossible for anyone here, there’s no doubt about that.
“But if the delivery is good like this cross, Salomon can score these kind of goals. I will be fair with the other strikers – they can do it, but you have to have these deliveries all the time.”
Rondon stabbed his side ahead from close range just seven minutes into the game and then headed home his second from Kenedy’s inviting cross five minutes before the break.
In the meantime, Bournemouth defender Adam Smith had been carried off on a stretcher after falling to the turf as he tried to take a quick free-kick and, in the eight minutes of stoppage time his misfortune created, Jefferson Lerma pulled one back for the visitors.
They mounted a concerted fightback after the break in an entertaining encounter and thought they had levelled five minutes from time, only for substitute Dan Gosling’s close-range strike to be ruled out for offside.
Benitez said: “We have to give credit to our players, the way that they were fighting for every ball. Against a good team that was in form, it was difficult to stop them and to create.
“We scored two great goals and after we had chances on the counter-attack against a team that was pushing and attacking all the time.”
Opposite number Eddie Howe admitted his players had given themselves too much to do with their first-half display.
He said: “I don’t think we performed well in the first half today. We are disappointed with that start. We gave ourselves a mountain to climb, really, to go 2-0 down.
“We did well in phases of the second half, a lot better, but it wasn’t to be. The lads kept going right to the end, so that’s a big positive and it felt like a goal was coming, but we just couldn’t force it.”
Howe’s disappointment was compounded by what looks like a serious knee injury for Smith.
He said: “He’d injured his knee in an earlier tackle. He said he felt his knee was slightly unstable and then he went to take a quick free-kick and his knee gave way, so it looks like a serious injury.”