Watching Newcastle United without the influence of alcohol was an interesting experience
Newcastle 1 Leicester 1 (NUFC lose 4-2 on penalties) – Wednesday 28 August 7.45pm.
Well this was a rarity, I had to be in Nottingham 8am on Thursday so took the car to this one and went to the game without any influence of alcohol.
Diving into town I actually listened to Total Sport (BBC Radio Newcastle) where much of the Newcastle banter was about what sort of team both clubs would put out, the general consensus being that both would be considerably weakened, how wrong they were!
Newcastle as a non-competing cup side put out the normal severely changed and weakened side, while Leicester who recognise they could easily go all the way, were at full strength. Bit of a disappointing surprise that one, however at least it gave the masses a chance to welcome back former favourite Ayoze Perez, except there were no masses and Perez in reality might be former but was not really a favourite.
Entering at about 7.15 it was clearly obvious that crowd suggestions of about 15.000 were right, as in and around SJP was very quiet, except for a rather long queue at the ticket office.
Teams emerged and proceeded to play out a very competitive first half, the aforementioned Perez nearly grabbing a goal within 10 seconds, fortunately a defender came in with a solid last ditch tackle, Newcastle after this were surprisingly good and one slick passing move down the left almost presented us with a chance early on.
Given the sides on the pitch, Leicester clearly had more quality, however young Longstaff in midfield was out to impress and while on occasions he overdid it, he clearly has talent and an appetite. From what I hear there are high expectations, let us hope he continues to progress.
As mentioned, the half was very competitive and Leicester on another day could easily have been reduced to nine men as two shocking tackles went in on Newcastle players, the second one may have long-term effects as Matt Richie looked quite badly hurt, he hobbled on for a few minutes in clear discomfort before being replaced by Christian Atsu, let us hope he is not too badly hurt.
Moments later Leicester won a soft free kick some 25 yards out, they have quality in Maddison and I feared the worst, what I didn’t expect was a poor free kick heading yards wide, strike the wall and roll softly past a wrong-footed Karl Darlow – disappointing, unlucky and hardly deserved.
Half-time came and I could not help but grin as the crowd was announced as over 22,000, clearly I can’t count as it did look considerably less, the sparsely populated areas accentuating my opinion.
The teams emerged for the second half and again it was competitive. There was a lot of huffing and puffing for both sides without any clear chances, when as I was commenting to my neighbour how disappointed I was in Willems, we scored…and he was well and truly involved. A superb free kick by the again very impressive Schar catches out the defence and Willems is in, he seemed to stumble under pressure while the crowd shouted for a penalty, somehow the ball broke to Muto in front of goal and it’s 1-1. Replays have since shown two things, first how fortunate we were for the ball to break to Muto and secondly the outrageous dive from Willems.
A word about Willems, he is a natural athlete with a turn of pace and a bit of skill, however there seemed a reluctance of his to attack down the wing which was disappointing, hopefully that dive was just a one-off as it is now doing the comedy rounds on YouTube!
The game from this point more or less flittered out apart from one piledriver from Shelvey (who again impressed and frustrated in equal measures) that ‘son of red nose’ saved at the second attempt, and a brave save from Darlow diving at the feet of the onrushing but less than impressive Jamie Vardy.
A quick word about our former player Perez, he did what he does best, a few impressive close control twists and turns but mostly he was on the fringe of the game with the normal ‘hands in the air’ frustrated gestures. Did he deserve the booing? Quite frankly I did not really care, for sure he was impressive at times up here, but we all know these games were few and far between, and I have no doubt he will be the same at Leicester. Real Madrid surprisingly did not come calling and for me he is a player who used to play for us….end of!
And so to penalties. I think we all feared the worst and so it turned out to be, Mutu and Schar dispatched theirs with authority, unfortunately Shelvey and Hayden both took poor penalties and despite one good save from Karl Darlow the game and the League Cup campaign were over for yet another year.
Ok, I’m going to be blunt.
Given the great effort and result at Spurs, I believe Steve Bruce put out the strongest team he possibly could. It was surprising to see Leicester go in at full strength but this team did more or less match them for 90 minutes and could easily have won the game. There were impressive performances from Schar and Fernandez who kept the Leicester attack mostly at arm’s length, in midfield Longstaff impressed with his effort and fearless approach, while Shelvey did both the good and the bad with equal aplomb. Up front Muto was also full of effort but I am yet to be convinced he has what it takes, however at the end of the day we are out yet another cup and while mildly disappointing was hardly unexpected.
So on to this Saturday and while Sky take great pleasure announcing that Newcastle are still in the bottom three despite the win at Spurs, a win would take us into the top half, such is the stupidity of their comment. However, this does really feel like a six pointer so hopefully we can get the win and boost the confidence of the team even more, players will return but Richie already looks like he is out and that will be disappointing also.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 1 Leicester 1 (NUFC lose 4-2 on penalties) – Wednesday 28 August 7.45pm
Possession was Leicester 68% Newcastle 32%
Total shots were Leicester 10 Newcastle 7
Shots on target were Leicester 1 Newcastle 2
Corners were Leicester 3 Newcastle 2
Referee: Tim Robinson
Newcastle team v Leicester:
Darlow, Krafth (Manquillo 50), Schar, Clark, Fernandez, Willems (Dummett 78), Shelvey, Matty Longstaff, Hayden, Ritchie (Atsu 45), Muto
Dubravka, Ki, Lascelles, Sean Longstaff
Crowd: 22,727 (Approx 800 Leicester)
(Watch official match highlights of Leicester game HERE)
(Steve Bruce confirms three new injuries – Read HERE)
(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to cup defeat HERE)
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