Thursday, March 05, 2009

Signs of recovery, but no points

Newcastle Utd 1 - 2 Manchester Utd

A goal from Peter Lovenkrands, his second for the club, gave us hope last night. Hope that we might survive, hope that we might be good enough to pick up points against the very best, and hope that on a cold wintery night we might produce a performance capable of warming even the coldest of souls.

Sadly for us, that goal, and the hot spell we produced just after it, in which Obafemi Martins might have scored a second, and Ryan Taylor went close with a free-kick following a foul on Martins by Nemanja Vidic, wasn't enough to secure the points against a team battling to pick up a staggering five trophies.

With manure for once looking ragged, our bright start had them on the ropes, only for a slick passing move which culminated with Wayne Rooney's feint and powerful finish (via a slight deflection off Steven Taylor) to restore the teams to parity. As the first half wore on the visitors' class began to slowly show, and frustration clearly got the better of Steven Taylor who was perhaps slightly fortunate to get away with a booking when he wrestled Ronaldo to the floor. Of course, if you simply looked at the Portuguese, you'd imagine that Taylor had laid him out with a one-two to the face rather than an arm round his neck, but nonetheless Taylor was probably fortunate to see Steve Bennett's yellow card rather than his red.

With half time following shortly after, the two players apparently carried on their playground spat in the tunnel (subsequently denied), with Ronaldo allegedly suggesting Taylor wasn't a very good footballer (which is probably fair when you are comparing him to someone recently crowned World Player Of The Year) to which Taylor reportedly pointed out that whilst his skills might be inferior, he wasn't ugly (unlike the aforementioned World Player Of The Year). Presumably at that point one went off to get their dad, whilst the other ran to teacher...

Anyway, playtime over, the second half saw Newcastle once again shoot themselves in the foot. With no great pressure, Ryan Taylor decided he'd try and chest a ball back to Steve Harper which he could either have headed, hoofed clear or even ducked and let run out of play. His poor decision and woefully under-hit chest back allowed Ji-Sung Park to pounce, and the Korean's square ball found Dimitar Berbatov (a player who slept in a Newcastle shirt as a child) running in at the far post, with Coloccini floundering in his wake, and the Bulgarian duly slotted home.

For all our first half menace, with the pace of Martins and Lovenkrands giving the manure defence nightmares all night, the second saw us start to run out of steam, and the late introduction of Andy Carroll and Kazenga Lua Lua failed to secure an equaliser.

The final whistle saw the loss of our record of never having lost this season when we've scored first, and with results elsewhere not helping, meant we dropped further into the relegation mire.

If we can continue to play like we did last night then we might yet pick up the points we need. It's a big if, but with Martins looking threatening and Owen due back against Hull, we might yet manage to score the goals we need to get some wins.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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