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Urgh, not sure I feel up to this

1 month ago
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The win in the derby had the potential to spark a renaissance.

An improved showing getting a morale boosting win and keeping an element of the season alive could have ran into another positive result if we’d taken the momentum forward.

The problem was that next up was the English, European and World Champions and the step up from an average Championship side might have been a stretch.

The first indication was that this was indeed going to continue as United appeared to take the lead within two minutes. Trippier’s ball set Isak flying away down the right and he centred for Longstaff to force it in, only for a belated flag to go up. Hope was retained for help from the VAR, but the big screen remained infuriatingly unhelpful, spitting out adverts for hotdogs when you’re hoping for a purple screen of redemption. There must have been a check but tough taty if you were sat in the ground, zero updates while a lengthy stoppage went on for treatment for Ederson, who had come off worse when trying to deny Longstaff. He stayed on after treatment but this turned out to be a bad idea.

Next passage of play Ederson wilted under pressure from Almiron and belted the ball straight off him and directly to Gordon. With the keeper stranded Gordon played it across and Miggy and Bruno seemed to get in each others way with the goal gaping, the latter only managing to weakly steer it away. Ederson departed immediately after, replaced by Ortega in a development that may have been to our advantage. With hindsight, converting that goal advantage while Ederson was clearly incapacitated was the thing that would have made the difference.

The pressure kept coming from a lively United and Almiron again got in behind, but in an echo of last week, unexpected use of the right foot to deliver the ball in seemed to catch Isak off guard and his effort was blocked. There was a chance this might come to bite us.

This came back t9 bite us when City took the lead after 26 minutes. Miley failed to dispossess Doku after a couple of goes and he switched it to Walker on the right, who centred for Bernardo Silva to finish with a cheeky backheel dink. Annoyingly, this all happened from a throw in conceded when Gordon had been shoved off the pitch in a clear foul, something that was never going to happen as the only decisions getting given were the constant offsides against United from the flag happy linesman towards the Leazes end. It’s best not to fall behind against these. It was almost two minutes later as well, Dubravka producing what was to be the first of a fine string of saves, diving to his left to bat Silva’s drive out via the post.

There were then a couple of smashing minutes that turned the game on its head, for a while at least. It all started with an excellent robust tackle from Schar, who released Bruno to play an exquisite ball over the top into Isak’s run. His first touch seemed to have made it harder, but he just turned Walker inside out before curling a terrific shot into the top corner. Dodgy linesman must have been asleep there.

Alexander Isak Goal Newcastle Manchester City

IMAGO/Offside Sports Photography

It was less than two minutes later that United took the lead in similarly impressive fashion. Isak harried the ball off City towards Dan Burn, who zipped a pass forward for Gordon, who embarked on a brilliant run into the box before emulating Isak by skinning Walker and curling past Ortega into pretty much the same spot.

Anthony Gordon Goal Newcastle Manchester City

IMAGO/Offside Sports Photography

The job of clinging on until half time was completed despite a monster 8 minutes injury time for the Ederson business and you could start to wonder a bit if we could pull this off. Overall, this was an improved showing from United after the December of disappointment but there were slight echoes of Milan in the disappointing second half.

There are many reasons why this game got away from us. One is that Man City are very good and we are going to have it rammed down our neck how we must all marvel at Kevin de Bruyne after he came on and won the game. There was hope at first, as the brown came on to take a dangerous free kick and made a terrible job of it, sparking thoughts that he might be out of sorts after a lengthy break and a bit useless. These were dispersed when he picked the ball up, ran unchallenged towards goal and finished in the corner. Now here’s a few things we did wrong.

There is a chasm in between the midfield and defence that has some role in all of the goals we concede. Opponents need only watch a set of highlights to know to exploit it. This is occasionally offset by the presence of Joelinton, who will either fill the chasm with his presence or worry someone off the ball (again, presence) and disrupt the opponents flow. If Joe is too far forward, off the pace or injured (as he was today and remains for six weeks at least, yay more injuries) then it feels like the centre of the field is easily bypassed. As I’ve said before, this has become more pronounced since the absence of Nick Pope as his sweeper keeper role would often see the defence move further forward.

In today’s instance, I feel like the approach was wrong for the second half as United looked to sit back on the lead far too early, with the final twenty minutes reminiscent of the game in Paris. This was exacerbated by the front three being utterly knackered, meaning only Hall was thrown on for Gordon in the closing stages.

The injury situation is in danger of rebooting itself, as the frustration grows and grows at the interminable absences of the likes of Willock and Barnes, who could have kept the impetus up if they were able to relieve Gordon or Almiron at any time in the last seven weeks or so. The exhaustion of those asked to play and play could bleed into another round of absences, as the amount of games played by the likes of Gordon, Schar and Bruno could well catch up. I hope interrogations are occurring as to why we’ve suffered so badly this year, as something isn’t right. I’ve yet to find out the reasons for Livramento’s absence from the squad but there’s no denying that we’ve been so horribly threadbare it has cost us in these increasingly depressing final stages of matches. After De Bruyne’s equaliser on 75 minutes, city laid siege until the injury time smash and grab everyone could feel coming, Bobb getting the better of Trippier in latching onto de Bruyne’s crossfield ball and finishing smartly. Sickener.

In the scheme of things, this maybe wasn’t such a sickener as recent times. This was a difficult opponent of course, but our current status in mid table, makes it feel a bit like a draw wasn’t going to make a difference really. Even a few back from injury and the refreshment of a two week break could well see a more vibrant and confident United, like the one that appeared in flashes earlier in the season. Crucially, the FA Cup gives some hope for the campaign and my hope is that Fulham can be bypassed and that long awaited kind draw finally emerges for round five. If this can be complemented with a few decent league results I’d be certain that the Europa League places will swiftly be back in our sights, although the top four has surely slipped too far away these past months.

Of course, it remains a decent possibility someone will arrive on loan to bolster the flagging ranks. Annoyingly, we are being forced into such scrapping around by our adherence to FFP, an issue today’s opponents never encountered on their own renaissance, which makes it all the more irksome how vehemently we’ll be reminded how he is definitely one of the best of their many £50 million+ signings. It could very well be that the club needs to follow up their hints about disgruntlement with FFP rules with some kind of action, if further seasons like this are to be avoided.

It feels a bit rubbish to be facing the break only a Wolves win away from the bottom half the table but we have to just accept the challenge of a work in progress. You’d hope that this is it and the squad will never again be as threadbare as today, even if returns are gradual as opposed to wholesale and even if none of the additional faces at Craven Cottage are brand new. There’s plenty season left yet and this is a team that has proved itself more than capable of making something of it. Let’s regalvanise and be grateful that we don’t have to play Man City again in the league and we move forward in a far better position than we’ve been at this stage of many previous seasons.

Eddie hOwe Newcastle United

IMAGO/News Images

Stats via BBC Sport:

Newcastle 2 Manchester City 3 – Saturday 13 January 2024 5.30pm:

Goals:

Newcastle United:

Isak 35, Gordon 37

Man City:

Bernardo Silva 26, De Bruyne 74, Bobb 90+1

(Half-time stats in brackets)

Possession was Man City 73% (69%) Newcastle 27% (31%)

Total shots were Man City 27 (11) Newcastle 12 (7)

Shots on target were Man City 11 (3) Newcastle 5 (3)

Corners were Man City 13 (5) Newcastle 3 (2)

Attendance: 52,190 (3,000 Man City)

Referee: Chris Kavanagh

Newcastle team v Manchester City:

Dubravka, Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn, Longstaff, Guimaraes, Miley, Almiron, Isak, Gordon (Hall 86)

Unused subs:

Karius, Gillespie, Dummett, Lascelles, Ritchie, Krafth, A Murphy, Parkinson

(BBC Sport comments from ‘neutrals’ – Interesting on Newcastle United after losing to Manchester City – Read HERE)

(Number of missing Newcastle United players nothing special (unusual)? The reality very very different – Read HERE)

(Newcastle 2 Manchester City 3 – Instant Newcastle United fan / writer reaction – Read HERE)

(Only two words to say after Newcastle 2 Manchester City 3 – Cruel and Proud – Read HERE)

You can follow the author on Twitter @Mr_Dolf

Newcastle United confirmed matches to end of February 2024:

Saturday 27 January 2024 – Fulham v Newcastle (7pm) ITV4

Tuesday 30 January 2024 – Aston Villa v Newcastle (8.15pm) TNT Sports

Saturday 3 February 2024 – Newcastle v Luton (3pm)

Saturday 10 February 2024 – Forest v Newcastle (5.30pm) Sky Sports

Saturday 17 February 2024 – Newcastle v Bournemouth (3pm)

Saturday 24 February 2024 – Arsenal v Newcastle (8pm) TNT Sports

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