Another season, another potential trophy to chalk off the list as we exited the League Cup to Man City in a largely lifeless but nonetheless improved encounter at SJP. The visitors lined up with a virtual reserve XI and we made a few changes of our own from the derby disaster with Haidara, Anita, Cisse, Shola and Yanga-Mbiwa all coming into the starting line-up and for most of the first half, we were marginally the better team.
Chances were fairly thin on the ground but the better ones fell to us and Cisse is so out of form at the minute, it’s almost painful to watch. Shola was a handful without displaying much mobility and he miscued a shot after Patillimon had fumbled and Cisse put wide after Shola had flicked a ball on to him. Perhaps our best chance fell to Anita but he side footed a volley wide from about ten yards with the goal gaping. The pasting a few of us were fearing never looked like materialising and City were laboured in their approach while we had hold of the midfield battle.
Haidara was replaced by Dummett at half time after a promising 45 minutes and extra time looked likely from well before the end of the 90 minutes as the second half followed a similar pattern in terms of a lack of clear cut chances and little in the way of urgency – it certainly didn’t feel like a cup tie for the bulk of the game. They started to impose themselves more in terms of possession and fashioned a couple of opportunites, most notably from a header pulled back at the far post by substitute Negredo that we managed to hack clear from in front of goal.
Shola made way for Cabaye shortly after they introduced Silva to the game and ultimately, it was the Spaniard who had the greater say in the outcome of the game with some great vision and touches inspiring them to push forward more regularly. Dummett, who has had a pretty rank few days, poor kid, had to go off for Ben Arfa and it looked like we could have pinched it just before the end of normal time, but Gouffran headed wide from five yards out, luckily with the linesman’s flag up at the time.
Our golden opportunity came right at the start of extra time. Ben Arfa picked out a fantastic ball to leave Cisse bearing down on Pantilimon with no defender in sight.
Unfortunately his first touch wasn’t ideal and the big keeper saved his effort. He should have buried it and we paid the price when they got two quick goals in the first period.
Firstly, Dzeko pulled back an intelligent ball after a good passing move and Negredo completely lost his marker Mbiwa to finish. Dzeko himself finished things off, rounding Krul and neatly finishing after a clever ball from Silva. Ben Arfa nearly got a late consolation only to see his volleyed effort blocked on the line but in the end it was too much and we bowed out of the competition.
Given the quarter final line up, it would have been a stretch to say that we had a realistic chance of winning the thing and to be fair, the team didn’t play badly. Certainly there was more will than was evident on Sunday and in truth, we had as many good opportunities as City did – we just failed to finish ours.
You wouldn’t go as far as to call the performance a confidence booster though and you get the feeling that Pardew has already written his post match press conference for the visit of Chelsea on Saturday on the back of 120 gruelling (which they weren’t) minutes less than 72 hours hence. I think the best word to sum up the challenge ahead over the next fortnight would be daunting but with expectations so dimmed, anything would be a bonus.
Keep the Faith
Newcastle United– Tim Krul 5, Matthieu Debuchy 6, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa 6, Mike Williamson 7, Massaido Haidara 7 (Paul Dummett 6 (Hatem Ben Arfa 7)), Moussa Sissoko 6, Vurnon Anita 7, Cheick TIOTE 7, Yohan Gouffran 5, Shola Ameobi 5 (Yohan Cabaye 5), Papiss Cisse 4
Ref – Swarbrick – 7 – No complaints
Our Fans – 5 – Every shitty ditty in the songbook from the bairns in the corner. Young un’s of 16 singing ‘Where were you when you were shit’ to Man City? Really? Sorry for being a miserable old twat but I found them canny tedious all night and the rest of the ground was far from rocking.
Their Fans – 2 – Almost comically quiet. Had you not glanced over to check, you would never known they were there until they scored, despite bringing a good following. Terrible.