Monday, November 08, 2004

In the comfort zone

As Newcastle fans, it's not often we get to enjoy formality wins, with nary an alarm and few surprises. So, what to say about last Thursday evening's near-novel experience, a 2-0 victory at home to Dinamo Tblisi in the UEFA Cup?

The visitors were appallingly bad, though we still contrived to grant them a couple of presentable opportunities in the first half. Middlesbrough can consider themselves equally fortunate as regards the calibre of the opposition for their UEFA Cup tie – competition favourites Lazio, though, are a rather bigger name scalp.

The two decisive and sharply-taken strikes came from the boots of Messrs Shearer and Bellamy either side of half time, meaning that all ten of our goals in European competition this season have come from strikers.

How Kluivert and Robert failed to score once, let alone grab the hat-tricks they each could have notched up, will remain an eternal mystery. Indeed, how our incessant fluent and incisive attacking play failed to reap more than just a two goal reward is beyond belief. We could – and should – have racked up a cricket score, which would have propelled us into the forthcoming tougher home fixtures with greater confidence and vigour.

Bernard, restored to his customary left-back slot, proved his worth as an offensive asset, whilst Hughes looked much more comfortable at right-back, venturing forwards to good effect himself as though he’s been learning from his time sat on the bench looking on as Carr tears down the touchline time and again.

Three minutes to go, 2-0 up and cruising to a comfortable win, and Ambrose conceded a dubious free-kick near one of the Tblisi corner flags. Cue Souness gesticulating and chucking away his chewing gum in fury and disgust at the decision and / or the foul. That’s what we want to see in a manager: passion, from first whistle to last.


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