No matter what you may read in the press about yesterday’s match, we were better than Palace, and that’s why we won. Fair enough, it’ll be difficult to stretch a match report to more than 7 words but for the love of Rafa, we deserved the 3 points.
El Grande, El Rey, El Emperador, Mi Padre – if yi divven’t kna what they mean, just google translate them. I’m a 40 years-old man with an incredibly cynical and nihilistic outlook on life yet, when I think of Rafa and this squad he and his backroom staff have put together, I remember why I love football and why I love NUFC. The performance the team put on today was spectacular, not Keeganesque, not the free flowing 442 throwback football of the Robson era, but another absolute tactical masterclass.
An unchanged line-up from the one that put in a cracking performance at Southampton. Gayle out injured (?!) and every Newcastle fan’s favourite Sooorb on the bench. I was upset that my younger brother Mikel didn’t start but that’s my issue and I’ll have to deal with it. I love him so much but if Rafa says ‘nar young’in, ya not starting’ I’ll have to learn to accept it because his managerial career so far is better than mine.
Palace played a formation that contained association football players.
A tame start and nothing of note until the 23rd minute when Elliott got down and made a decent stop from a Zaha effort. I also think that Rob was helped by Sting and Jimmy Nail, whose presence at the match made all the difference. Tantric football at its best.
The next moment of note was Cabaye’s tackle on Yedlin which was so poor that former Coronation Street actor and current football pundit, Phil Neville, stated should’ve been a straight red. He’s bang on with that assessment and, if it had been Jonjo, our shiny-palated midfield dynamo, he would’ve been on his way to a 2 year stretch in Barlinnie. Yellow card though because Stuart Atwell bottled sending him off. Cabaye does have a nasty streak in him.
Our first half-decent chance came in the 33rd minute. Ayoze laid it back to Jonjo who put a lovely first time pass through to our favourite Christian. Atsu proceeded to skin Ward and smack one into the side-netting. Unlucky.
Townsend, playing in tandem with his recent hair transplant, put a decent dink into to Zaha in the 39th minute. The header went in a vertical direction and Zaha, who is a very gifted footballer, looked for a second like a winger playing as a centre-forward.
Half-time came, the 2nd half kicked off, and then the game changer occurred. Hayden, who had been rather quiet and whose presence on the pitch had, unfortunately, ensured that Shelvey ended up playing far too deeply, went off for Merino in the 56th minute. It all started to change despite Townsend’s half decent run and shot over the bar in the 65th minute.
The sense that we’d take this started to take a grip. And then Diame came on and caused havoc for a Palace side who had clearly decided it was now time to settle for a point. Big Mo had come on for Ayoze in the 66th minute and his entrance on to the pitch was followed by Mitro for Joselu in the 78th. Just a quick word on Joselu – his work-rate is phenomenal and seeing him, alongside another player maligned and slated by fans of his previous clubs, Manquillo, play so well and with so much desire is fantastic to watch.
The game dynamic was changing. The smell of impending victory was in the air. Diame tested Speroni. Shelvey had a good effort that the Argentine keeper saved. We were turning the screw…then Van Aaaaanholt failed to connect with a ball across the 6 yard box cross from Lotsof-Beek. Close, but not close enough, and punishment was soon meted out. In the 86th minute an attempted Yedlin cross spins off Milivojevic. It arrives at the feet of Manquillo who attempts to play the ball in. It deflects off Townsend. Ritchie whips in the standard-for-him superb corner and our big, beautiful new signing Merino leaps into the air and HEEDS THE BASTARD BAAL INTO THE BACK OF THE NET.
I removed my top and didn’t get arrested.
We closed the game out. Professional, hard-working and responsible. That’s how the team played, that’s how the squad is.
NORMAN RILEY – FOLLOW NORMAN ON @LIKETHEGOAT
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