Newcastle Missing Their Two Best Players
Never a dull moment with the Toon!
A mightily frustrating game but it certainly felt nice to have those big game nerves back watching one of our matches, I’ve not celebrated a goal that much in a long time. Then it all went a bit pear-shaped.
The game was typical of many of our big European games (PSV et al), and reminded me a lot of the Sporting Lisbon tie under Souness. In many ways it mirrored that one with the injuries and the feeling of it all getting away from us for a spell. Thankfully, however, it wasn’t 4-1 and there is a 2nd leg to be played!
I thought Pardew got our approach pretty spot on overall. Some of the usual Pardew critics will be out again but the result is not a disaster and on the whole the players acquitted themselves well. The 3 goals came from 2 individual errors and one piece of sloppiness from MYM. That is out of Pardew’s control. How often do you see strikers beat defenders to a rebound? You can’t be too critical, but goals 2 and 3 should never have happened.
It was a game of very fine margins and many incidents, with the most important one for me being Cisse’s deflected shot that hit the post in the first half. I know you can apply ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ to every game but this was a huge moment in my opinion. If it went in…2-0 up and 2 away goals in the bag, this would have severely demoralized Benfica, who hadn’t even started.
Even if we had gone on to lose 3-2 I would have had great optimism for the 2nd leg. We will struggle to qualify now. Luck always plays an important part, almost 2-0 at one end, then 3 minutes later it’s 1-1. Cisse’s second post hitting shot was also vital but by that point you could add a few of the ‘what ifs and buts’ about Benfica’s missed chances during their good spell in the first half, they could easily have been ahead.
Overall it was an incredibly frustrating game but Benfica are a very good outfit at the end of the day. Their narrow, roaming tactics paid off throughout with Rodrigo, Gaitan, Matic and others finding gaps between Perch, Cabaye and Gutierrez. For 20 minutes in each half they were simply sharper, quicker and better than us. However, it is clear to see that we can score goals against them, Cisse played well and on another day would have had a hat-trick. I’m confident we can push them back at home.
One thing that I think can’t be forgotten is that we are missing arguably our 2 best players in HBA and Colo; they would be making a big difference on the pitch and to our options on the bench. With just a few injuries our squad just isn’t strong enough yet. Tiote’s absence was felt last night too, while Perch and Simpson going off with problems only adds to our concerns. Our bench options last night were toothless. Take out 2 or 3 of any team’s best players and it will always have an impact.
This was the first game in a run of probably the 4 biggest games of our season. We are down, but not out. The next 3 games will define our season, I’m not drastically concerned for out PL safety yet, but as everyone knows, we do need to beat Fulham to stop any more concern creeping in, and we should be beating Fulham. I am expecting a big performance and 3 points!
A good win will provide us with confidence for a tilt at the Benfica game and then the prospect of a tasty derby to come should boost the players even more.
If you would like to feature on The Mag, submit your article to [email protected]