Wednesday, November 08, 2006

We win on penalties

Watford 2 - 2 Newcastle Utd aet

Newcastle win 5-4 on penalties

After years of trying, we have finally won a competitive penalty shoot out, with Steve Harper the hero after he saved Watford's sixth penalty low to his left hand side.

The game itself started well, with Newcastle winning an early free kick on the Watford left. Emre's flighted ball in was met by Sibierski at the back post to nod the ball into the Hornet's goal and give us a very early lead. From then on, we looked comfortable against a Watford side that showed plenty of effort but no real end product. As the half drew to a close, Babayaro gave away a needless free kick down the left. From that free kick, Watford applied pressure and forced Steve Harper to produce a good save low down.

Frustratingly, when we got the ball down and passed it about, we looked a very competent side. The difficulty was that as the game wore on, and particular the second half unfolded, we descended to Watford's level and became embroiled in a long ball game, and allowed the home side to rouse their dormant fans and force their way back into the match. In the end, it was Damian Francis sliding in to get on the end of a Matthew Spring flick on following Ashley Young's free kick.

Despite creating several decent chances, with Rossi and Duff both looking lively on the break, we were unable to convert any of our chances, the Irishman being guilty of wasting several shots when he should have cut the ball back for a better placed colleague to finish. His best chance game towards the end of 90 minutes when he hit the post.

Roeder introduced Solano for Rossi, allowing Duff to push on, and the Peruvian to bring some calm to proceedings as extra time was played. However, it was the home side who pressed home their advantage when Danny Shittu planted a firm header past Harper following another free kick.

Fortunately for Newcastle, as so often happens in these situations, Watford promptly sat back, and allowed Newcastle back into the match. N'Zogbia replacing the increasingly frustrated Sibierski, who was frequently penalised by the referee when competing for high balls - despite his marker being equally guilty of holding and pulling.

With Milner and Duff upfront, and N'Zogbia bringing new impetus down the left, Newcastle pressed for an equaliser, and it was Solano's well placed ball that split the defence and allowed Parker to surge forward and finish coolly to take the game to penalties.

The shoot out, taking place in front of the Newcastle fans, was the inevitable gut wrenching moment.

Solano's initial strike being cancelled out by Henderson.

Milner's weak effort was then saved, only for Young to blast his penalty high and wide.

Emre's cool finish was followed by an equally good penalty by Spring.

Duff scored only for Bangura's stuttering run up and shot to take matters to sudden death.

Then up stepped Stephen Carr - my heart sank, but the barrel chested Irishman scored. However, not to be out done Bouazza also finished well.

For Newcastle, it was N'Zogbia who was the next to step up, and whilst his penalty failed to convince it rippled the net which was the important thing. Then Harper saved from Jordan Stewart and with that we've finally shown we are capable of winning a shoot out.

Looking back on the game, it was heartening to see committed performances from players all over the pitch - with no ill feeling directed at Parker or Carr for their reported hand clapping gesture's at the weekend. We looked a good side when we got the ball down and played , however we sank into the trap of hoofing far too many long balls forward for Sibierski to try and win. Defeat last night would have heaped the pressure further on Roeder, but perhaps the penalty win, and the euphoria which followed might just be enough to restore some confidence to the team. Steve Harper for one will be a justifiably happy man this morning.

As for the board - apart from a group of fans with a banner talking to Sky at half time, I didn't hear or see any sign of the disgruntlement that is felt be many fans. Events on the pitch taking too much of our nervous energy and the ultimate victory leaving a feeling of general good will.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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