It felt like a defeat but it wasn’t. Nor was it the insipid, pathetic version of Newcastle United in 2015 we’ve seen so much of.
A point in the end and it should have been three, it should have been our first win and it should have been yet another defeat for the billionaires from the South East.
We lined up, properly. Mitrovic back in. He’s so good. He put in more effort than the entire team did on Wednesday. He was fouled 9 times in the game, 7 more times than any player. But aye, he’s the problem. No protection from refs. How Chelsea escaped with just one booking, I’ll never know. Perez just off Mitro will cause sides so much aggro it’s tantalising. This is Newcastle United and injuries to either of them will see us back relying on Janmaat for any attacking threat. Playing 4 defenders and 4 midfielders was also a lovely little treat. Colo and Mbemba were excellent. Loic Remy like Demba ba before him looks a shadow of the player who we relied on so heavily just 2 seasons ago. That’s what not playing football will do to you. A waste.
Back to United though and without Anita alongside them and Colback 5 yards in front, each of the Centre Backs had a clear remit to and responsibility to control what went on in their positions and tell those in front what to do. Too many cooks etc. I’ve been saying on the podcast Gino is an excellent player but is hopeless around is own area and does his best work in the middle of the pitch. Mental, that, as he’s a midfielder.
Kevin Mbabu, take a bow. He’s not Roberto Carlos. He got away with a couple of major positional gaffs when he let Pedro in to miss. He shouldn’t be first choice LB at United, and he’ll probably drop a bollock this season and give away a pen or a goal, but god does he have potential and just whisper it, he’s big and fast and tackles hard – what we’ve been missing from the side for years.
We started dead well. The best start in a game in, well, years. We were up the pitch. Chelsea’s defenders were running back towards their own goal in the first 5 minutes. Centre Backs have absolutely loved playing against United this year. Colback and Anita were making forward passes and Chelsea couldn’t get on the ball. Hazard was anonymous and I was impressed with our intent. It looked like we’d gone out to win. Compare the first 20 in this match to the Watford game. Two different sides.
Janmaat (obviously) had the two best chances of the opening exchanges. Begovic saving well twice and Mitro winning a header he had no right to win after great work from Winjaldum (more on him later) down the left. I don’t know about you lot reading this but I was thinking that we almost looked like a proper football team.
Chelsea had a couple of moments but nothing more than that. Then it happened. United took the lead for just the second time this season (it’s nearly October). You can’t win matches unless you’re in the lead. The penny seems to have dropped. It was actually the first time United had taken the lead in the first half a game since QPR in May.
What a goal it was. The defending was poor, but then having a better touch than Pele, Maradonna and Messi probably had more to do with Perez’s outstanding goal. 1 0 United and SJP was rocking.
Half time came and went and you knew Chelsea couldn’t be as poor as they were first half. They had some decent positions but Colo and Mbemba weren’t having any of it and it was pretty comfortable for the side, even if it was uncomfortable watching.
The something utterly ludicrous happened. A goal. From a corner. Perez’s corners were actually decent. Not floaty and shite. Not first man or ‘keeper fodder, but whipped in with pace and venom and a bastard to defend. It helped that Fabregas (who does little but be an annoying shit and whine at the ref all game) lost Winjaldum who scored a beautifully placed header. Delerium. 2 nil up against them (again) and it hadn’t been that difficult. There was still 60 minutes to go and it was never going to be straight forward.
A word on Winjladum– the left side of midfield really seemed to suit him while he played there before Colback’s injury and he moved inside. So far, for our third most expensive signing ever – he’s been a major disappointment. It doesn’t help he’s been playing in a terrible team and shunted across the pitch. I’ve heard mags say he’s a number 10, he’s an old fashioned box to box midfilder and that he wants to play deeper. Well for me he was consistently contributing to the team on the left wing and he should stay there. More of the same please Georginio.
The game was ultimately saved for Chelsea by the introduction of William and Ramires from their bench. Two players that would comfortably start for 17 of the other Premier League clubs. It was so comfortable before Ramires smashed one in from 22 yards. It was a great strike but there was a hint of luck about it as Hazard waltzed across the back line with no real purpose or any options and popping it back to Ramires was an admission he’d run out of space and ideas. It happens though and was a great strike.
The inevitable happened when one of the many niggly fouls that many refs would ignore when Atkinson gave a foul against Sissoko for a ‘tug’ on Willian. Chelsea never stopped talking to the ref all game. Complain, complain complain. They know what they’re doing. They know Atkinson is no Michael Oliver who spends all game mouthing ‘GO AWAY ‘ at the players trying to moan and complain. Atkisnon was giving Chelsea regular free kicks and one of them was always going to cause us problems. Frustratingly Ramires was unmarked once again and Krul couldn’t stop the equaliser.
Chelsea could have snatched an utterly deserved win but we held on for the draw. United correctly saw out a corner at the end despite the calls of some in the crowd to whip the ball in, when we were down to 10 men as Ramires nearly decapitated Siem De Jong and escaped punishment.
It was much, much better. A different approach, a different team. There’s no point only playing well against the top 4. Most of our points will be won against the bottom 10 of the Premier League. They’re the real ‘big games’.
Newcastle United: Tim Krul (8), Daryl Janmaat (8), Chancel Mbemba (8), Fabricio Coloccini (8), Kevin Mbabu (8), Moussa Sissoko (6) (Siem De Jong (6)90+2), Vurnon Anita (6), Jack Colback (7) (Gabriel Obertan (6) 54), Gino Wijnaldum (9), Ayoze Perez (9), Aleksander Mitrovic (9) (Ivan Toney (6) 85).
Unused Subs: Rob Elliot, Mike Williamson, Jamaal Lascelles, Florian Thauvin.
Referee: Martin Atkinson – had a decent game overall. 8/10
Man of the Match: Mitrovic – led the line, strong and provided a great focal point going forward.
Our Fans – Almost transformed SJP into its bear-pit best but not quite . Loads of empty seats all over the ground. 7/10
Their Fans – Good numbers for a televised game at the other end of the country on a Saturday but an abysmal song-book and barely audible until the equaliser. 4/10
ALEX HURST – Follow Alex on @tfalex1892
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