Newcastle 1 Manchester City 1 – Tuesday 19 April 2016 7.45pm
This was a very tense evening indeed, one of the most nerve-wracking in recent memory, which is quite an achievement when you think we went into the final day of last season in a relegation shoot-out.
Of course, the R word remains the hot topic as the positive results at the weekend threw up the previously unimaginable scenario of us clawing our way above that dreaded line.
Of course, to do this there was the small matter of beating the multi-squillion pound European Champions elect, who marched ominously into Tyneside off the back of a comprehensive demolition of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, with perennial Toon-destroyer Sergio Aguero bagging a hat-trick. The hope burned bright but the signs were worrying.
Benitez sent out the same defensive formation that set up against Swansea, with Perez replacing the anonymous Wijnaldum on the left as the only change.
It seems the confidence gained against the Jacks was continuing to flow, as a magnificently committed performance was served up. Townsend battled admirably on the right, my new hero Lascelles was a colossus once again, while Anita was well deserving of his Man of the Match award from Sky for a tireless evening.
However, the standout performer for me was the reinvigorated Tiote, whose transformation back to the 2011 vintage model is complete. He never stopped going: breaking up City attacks, tidying up play and of course, hurting people because, you know, Tiote.
Unfortunately, it will be weeks before we know the legacy of this match. It could be remembered as the point that Newcastle showed their mettle against a European big gun ahead of a triumphant march to safety, or it could be remembered as the unforgivable moment that an incompetent a***hole with a shocking disaffection towards his one simple job caused £100 million of damage to the Tyneside community.
As Kolarov stepped up to take a disputed free kick, the nemesis Aguero wandered into the considerable gap between the defensive line and the isolated Darlow. The ball was swung in towards the Argentine who made no attempt to move to a rule-abiding position before heading in.
Obviously not a goal to all in attendance and the massed media watching, but no issue for the knock-kneed, feeble minded Clumpy Slipper with a flag, who stared goofily at the blatant infringement and decided to completely neglect the one small element of a job that he is given enough credence to do when it was staring him in the face. Utterly ridiculous that games worth this amount of emotion and money, are put in the hands of clueless cretins like this, with the technology available in this day and age.
The rest of the game saw Hopeless McGuffins given a torrid time by the home crowd, including ironic cheers for the occasional award our way and some clear examples of him responding by petulantly giving the odd debatable award City’s way.
When up against a more advantaged team this kind of dodge pot robbery is the last thing you need, and following on from Tiote’s disallowed howitzer, Ben Arfa’s broken leg and Robinho’s costly dive in our last relegation season, you actually have to wonder when we are ever going to get a fair crack against this lot.
The following ten minutes were the worst of the match as the injustice of it all burned bright and the crowd started to get a bit restless as the odd awry pass or missed tackle threatened to see the whole show unravel, but United showed that they are now made of sterner stuff, albeit potentially a bit late.
A brilliant mazy run from Sissoko saw him steaming down on goal with purpose, but Hart was out swiftly and it ended in a relatively tame effort. United kept the pressure on though, and moments later a magnificent crossfield ball by the skipper found Anita in an advance position. Big Vurn advanced into the box and switched onto his left foot before finding the perfect shot across Hart and in off the post. Lovely stuff.
The second half was a tumultuous affair as the belief that we could get something grew with each minute negotiated. Aguero sprawled in the box but the ref was having none of it, possibly influenced into making amends for his mate’s earlier inability.
Darlow then produced a pair of terrific agile saves from De Bruyne and Navas. At the other end Mitrovic was introduced for Cisse and looked all set to replicated his power header against the mackems from Townsend’s dipping cross, only for Kompany to get up to deny him.
Sissoko charged down some dallying in the City defence to again get through on Hart, but the England goalie came rushing out to boot clear.
The most heart stopping moment came at the very last though, as Wijnaldum, introduced late on following his deserved exclusion, found himself bearing down on goal with the City defence all over the place. He seemed to delay a bit too long though, and while Hart did very well to block the Dutchman’s shot, Jack Colback’s lung bursting run had given Wijnaldum a clear option to square the ball for a tap in. We are dealing in very fine margins and this could be crucial come the reckoning.
The final whistle brought a raucous reception for United following another strong display. However, we still find ourselves 2 points adrift, with the mackems holding a game in hand and an ominous trip to Anfield up next. It may be that the Rafa revival has been too little too late.
Whilst we will all bemoan the inaction of the linesman tonight, or curse Wijnaldum’s late judgement, relegation will not come about as a result of only managing a draw at home to Man City.
Our fate will be sealed due to miserable displays against Watford and Bournemouth, or a sorry string of away performances under an unsuitable manager. I won’t bore you with going into where the ultimate responsibility lies.
Once again we have hope, but sometimes the hope is the worst part.
Here are the stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 1 Manchester City 1
Newcastle: Anita 31
Man City: Aguero 14
Possession was Newcastle 43% Man City 57%
Total shots were Newcastle 5 and Man City 9
Shots on target were Newcastle 3 and Man City 5
Corners were Newcastle 5 and Man City 3
Team: Darlow, Anita, Lascelles, Mbemba, Dummett, Townsend (Wijnaldum 81), Tiote, Colback, Sissoko, Perez (Aaron 90+2) , Cisse (Mitrovic 55)
Unused Subs: Woodman, Saivet, de Jong, Shelvey
Ref: Kevin Friend