Norwich 3 Newcastle 2 Saturday 2 April 3pm
I needed a weekend off from football before writing this match report.
I always like to re-watch a game on Sky or MOTD, but I don’t think I will ever re-watch this game. Saturday’s result at Norwich was absolutely heart-breaking. That is the only way to describe it.
It is those moments in the season that are worse than when you are actually relegated. Olsson’s last minute winner on Saturday reminded me of the feeling when Diomansy Kamara scored at SJP for Fulham on the second last match day of our last relegation season. That feeling when you know you are going down, is worse than when you actually do go down.
Yes, there are 7 games to go, 21 points to play for, but I think it’s evident that this Newcastle United side are just not good enough to stand up and be counted when it matters most. Failure to beat Southampton next week, and it will be hard for even the most positive of supporters to argue against the fact that we will be playing Championship football next season.
Benitez made a few surprising changes with his starting line-up. The most surprising being the omission of Mitrovic after his vital goal against Sunderland. Although Rafa gave his reasons for dropping Mitrovic, you still have to think that the decision was bizarre to say the least.
Mitrovic has endured a below average start to his Newcastle career, and he had been waiting for a goal like the one against Sunderland all season. Regardless of tiredness, for me, after his goal last week and the confidence that would have gave him, he would have been the first name on my team sheet on Saturday.
His decision didn’t work, Norwich dominated the first half and could/should have been 3-0 up by half-time. Papiss Cisse must be the greatest player of all time in training, because if you were to evaluate him on his performances on the pitch alone, then he should not be allowed anywhere near the starting 11, especially over the likes of Mitrovic and Perez.
Again, the decision to not play Perez over the likes of primadonnas Sissoko, Anita and Tiote was questionable. Finally, the decision to not play Lascelles, who played okay last week against Sunderland, over Taylor, proved to be another mistake as Mbokani dragged him around the pitch for 90 minutes.
Newcastle actually started off quite well, for our away-day standards, we dominated possession but of course did not really look like creating anything clear-cut.
It must be said, throughout the game Jonjo Shelvey looks head and shoulders above any player on the pitch. For those fans only watching MOTD, or watching via TV, it may not be so evident. However, when you are at the game every week, especially away from home, Shelvey consistently looks like that kid in the playground who played for an academy and was therefore better than everyone else.
He gets the ball, he passes the ball, he tackles, he shoots, he runs around and he encourages his fellow team-mates. Now how many other Newcastle players can you say that about?
Norwich should have been 3-0 up at the break. Mbokani had a goal ruled offside when he really shouldn’t have been offside. He was then denied again by an amazing Karl Darlow save – which even produced chants of “Darlow, Darlow” from the away end…if ever a confidence boost was needed.
Time and time again, Norwich came at us down our left hand side. Sissoko was lazy and Anita was rubbish. The two of them together are hopeless, almost as hopeless as the two of them individually.
Right on half-time, we conceded again. Just like we did against Manchester City, Sunderland, Leicester, Spurs, Watford and Sunderland again. Another fatal error that Newcastle have failed to learn from time and time again this season.
Mitrovic finally came on and made it 1-1 almost immediately with a great header. However, before you know it, it was 2-1 again after Newcastle couldn’t clear the ball, despite having 5 or 6 attempts to do so.
From where I was standing it looked like the ball went straight through Darlow and he could have done better… but then again, I am not a goalkeeper and I never have been, so what do I know?
Amazingly, we got a second lifeline and Mitrovic stepped up to score the penalty that felt like it took an eternity to go in the back of the net.
But once again, we showed just why we are going to be relegated. Norwich scored with what was the last kick of the game to make it 3-2 and what was probably the most sickening, heartbreaking moment I have had watching Newcastle.
I think the fact that there was probably a handball in the run to the goal, yet nobody seems to care, is a telltale sign that Newcastle fans know that it wasn’t because of Saturday that we will be relegated.
Newcastle will go down because of years and years of lies, deception, mistakes and mismanagement on behalf of Mike Ashley and the people that he employs.
Although we would all disagree with his team selection, and lament the side’s first half performance, you just can’t have a bad word to say about Rafa.
To his credit, when it was going wrong, he changed it straight away and brought Mitrovic on. Something that the likes of Pardew/Carver/McClaren were notorious for not doing.
I think it is a case of too little too late.
For me, under Rafa, getting relegated will be worse. Rafa is likely to leave the club if we do go down, and therefore relegation will be accompanied with the thought of what could have been under Rafa Benitez in the Premier League.
We have looked like a much better team under Benitez, and if he had been appointed after Watford, or Everton, or Chelsea, then I don’t think we would have been in the situation that we currently find ourselves.
2,700 fans made the trip to Norwich and created a great atmosphere inside Carrow Road. There were even a few tears in the away end at the final whistle.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, if those 11 players put in as much effort as our away fans, then we would not be on the brink of relegation.
A sad day.
When you run your football club like a high-street sport shop.
When you appoint a little-known, clueless secretary to run one of the biggest clubs in the UK.
When you appoint one man without a proven track-record to sign all of your players from France.
When you treat your fanbase with no respect.
When you lie and alienate club legends.
When you appoint head coaches who have consistently failed in the lower leagues.
When you show no respect to the local media.
When you sell your best players then don’t replace them.
When you sign young foreign players who view the club as a stepping stone.
…then you deserve to be relegated.
Newcastle United are staring into the abyss and the only person to blame is Mike Ashley.
Darlow 5 – Can’t be criticised but still conceded three.
Anita 1 – This was meant to be his big season and he has been absolutely atrocious throughout, no matter what position he plays in.
Mbemba 6 – Deja vu of Sebastien Bassong’s only season at Newcastle, will probably leave for a big team in the summer.
Taylor 2 – Way past his best and looks unfit.
Janmaat 3 – Overrated.
Shelvey 8 – It’s hard to tell just how good he is because he is surrounded by utter rubbish, however, he’s our best player by a million miles.
Tiote 4 – Should have gone to China.
Wijnaldum 1 – When he plays, it’s like we are playing with 10 men or 12 men. Not good enough.
Sissoko 1 – Epitomises everything that is wrong with Newcastle United.
Townsend 6 – Struggled to get into the game but is always looking for the ball and always trying to create something.
Cisse 2 – Another one that should have gone to China.
Mitrovic – 9. Should have started, almost saved us.
Perez – 7. Consistent as ever, you always know what you get from Perez.
Here are the stats from BBC Sport:
Norwich 3 Newcastle 2
Norwich: Klose 45+2, Mbokani 74, Olsson 90+3
Newcastle: Mitrovic 71, 86 pen
Possession was Newcastle 59% Norwich 41%
Total shots were Newcastle 13 and Norwich 13
Shots on target were Newcastle 5 and Norwich 6
Corners were Newcastle 5 and Norwich 6
Team: Darlow, Janmaat, Taylor, Mbemba, Anita (Mitrovic 62), Townsend, Tiote (Perez 46), Shelvey, Sissoko,Wijnaldum, Cisse
Unused Subs: Woodman, Sterry, de Jong, Riviere, Lascelles
Ref: Mike Dean