Tuesday, May 08, 2012

A bridge Tou far?

Newcastle Utd 0 - 2 Man City

A valiant effort against Man City at St James' Park on Sunday wasn't quite enough to stave off defeat - though we can feel proud at having given the champions elect a very good game and a number of scares. Pundits droned on that City's cross-Manchester rivals could have few complaints about our efforts and endeavour, neglecting the fact that the game had critical import for our Champions League challenge too. That so much was riding on the result for both sides led to a gripping and dramatic match.

Not surprisingly given Wednesday evening's heroics, the Silver Fox selected an unchanged side, meaning that Perchinho continued to deputise for the injured Danny Simpson at right-back. In terms of formation, though, we seemed to have switched to a more traditional 4-4-2, with HBA appearing on the right-hand flank rather than pushing forwards to make a trio with Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba.

Caution appeared to be the watchword early on, as we allowed the visitors to dictate the game while hoping to catch them on the break. City's superstars stroked the ball around comfortably, though Mr T - patched up following his encounter with John Obi Mikel's elbow - was buzzing about like a man possessed, crunching into tackles to protect his defence. Tim Krul made fairly straightforward saves from Sergio Aguero and David Silva, and looked on without distress when back-in-the-fold black sheep Carlos Tevez tried his luck with a free-kick.

The gulf between our midfield and forwards was too large for the opening half hour, but when we did belatedly start to threaten, the signs suddenly looked promising. Ba blasted over from the edge of the area and was then denied by a Vincent Kompany block. The ball bounced invitingly for HBA to strike it, but Joe Hart parried away at his near post.

Still, we were thankful to get in all square at the break. When the tricky Silva fed Gareth Barry, his second attempt found its way past Krul only for the well-placed Davide Santon to knock it off the line, a combination of Krul and Sideshow Bob clearing the danger. That's two goal-line clearances in two games from our Italian full-back - good to know that, in Simpson's absence, someone else is stepping up to that particular plate.

The second half began in much the same way, with City controlling possession but failing to cause much alarm. It was at this point that Roberto Mancini decided to introduce professional leg-breaker Nigel de Jong for the ineffective Samir Nasri. A bizarrely defensive move, it seemed - but not so. The Dutch destroyer stationed himself in front of the back four, with Yaya Toure given licence to push forwards - and, as his compatriot Mr T started to tire, City's midfield man mountain soon reaped the benefits. When Aguero laid the ball off on the edge of the area, our closing down could have been sharper, but credit to Toure for clipping a precise curler past Krul.

Drawn out of our shell, we were increasingly vulnerable to City raids and Aguero should have doubled their advantage shortly afterwards, his shot rolling mercifully wide of Krul's left-hand post. Perchinho and HBA left the action for Shane Ferguson and Big Lad, with Spidermag filling in at left-back to enable to Ferguson to worry City on the wing. Our persistence forced a couple of opportunities, with Cisse heading harmlessly over and Big Lad seeing a ferocious shot blocked.

It wasn't to be, though. With a minute remaining and City apparently content to wind the clock down, Gael Clichy caught us napping, playing in Toure inside the area. The Ivorian took a touch and then knocked the ball coolly past Krul.

As well as we performed, we should acknowledge that title-chasers were the better side. No shame in defeat, though, and the applause that greeted the players' post-match lap of honour to mark the last home fixture of the season was richly deserved - recognition of an extraordinary campaign that could yet hold yet more joy. Arsenal and Spurs both picked up points, meaning final-day victories will secure them third and fourth place respectively regardless of what we can achieve at Goodison Park, but their failure to win ensures the dream of Champions League qualification isn't dead just yet.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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Anonymous bluevalentine said...

Go Geordies!
I'm sure most City fans would like to see you in The Champs League with us. Like us, you've suffered; you've retained your senses of both humour and reality and NUFC fans last Sunday were as generous in defeat as you were in victory at Wembley in 1955 when a bunch of them consoled this heartbroken 14 year-old kid - me!

5:18 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Have just read your very fair and balanced report and would just like to say I really hope you get the champions league spot.

5:34 pm  

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