A disappointing day for Newcastle United, with Manchester City the dominant force in a 0-2 win at St James’ Park – making our wait for a trophy move up to 66 years…
We came into it in the second half after switching back to a four-man defence – making some wonder why Bruce went back on his promise and started with five – however a moment of madness from Fabian Schar, a huge miss from Dwight Gayle and a moment of quality from Raheem Sterling was the difference in the end.
It may seem harsh to point the blame at certain individuals tonight given our collective effort and Bruce’s approach wasn’t good enough, however the mistakes made were suicidal when up against such a slick Man City side.
We all knew how tough this was going to be without our 12th man and 52,000 in the terraces, so the fact we gave them too much respect and didn’t impose ourselves on the game until it was too late was such a shame. Yes, going toe-to-toe with City can be a suicide mission, but you can’t get to Wembley camped in your own half…
Bruce made four changes and went back to a back five. Schar came inwith Ritchie ruled out with a knock, Shelvey only fit enough to make the bench, Carroll replacing Joelinton and, to many’s surprise, Darlow continued to get the nod in the cup, coming in for Dubravka.
The game started as you’d expect, with us camped in our own half and City absolutely dominating possession.
The early signs were pretty ominous, but we kept them at bay well, tracking runs, blocking passing lines where we could and throwing bodies in the way of shots, until Mahrez found some space in the box and fortunately smashed over the bar from a David Silva cut back.
This was our warning sign, and a few close shaves followed. First a fizzed cross from Kyle Walker was nearly poked home by Jesus, then there was another Mahrez shot from range – only this one came within inches of creeping past Darlow.
Carroll was proving to be a handful when we threw it up to him, but he was too isolated and needed more support, with there often being no other player in a black and white shirt in Man City’s half when he got. It was tough to watch.
We were defending resolutely and got into the first drinks break at 0-0, but a City goal was coming if we didn’t get out and attempt to impose ourselves on the game a little more, with us making 15 passes to City’s 188 after 27 minutes! It was pretty painful to watch and embarrassing at times. OK it would be silly to go toe-to-toe with them, but we looked too terrified to get out of our own half.
As the above suggests, a goal was coming if we put a single foot wrong. And that error arrived 35 minutes in, with all our good defensive being undone by a moment of stupidity from Fabian Schar, with him giving away a penalty via a needless push on Gabriel Jesus.
De Bruyne then stepped up and did the rest, sending Darlow the wrong way. 0-1 City and we can’t say it hadn’t been coming, but the nature of the goal was so frustrating and avoidable.
A moment of madness from Schar and perhaps an example of why Lascelles and Fernandez get the nod ahead of him when we go with four at the back..
We got into the break at 0-1. A part of me was thankful we were only one goal behind, with City no doubt feeling they should’ve scored at least two or three, but the frustration was how avoidable there goal was.
It was announced at half time that we’d be playing Arsenal at Wembley if we managed to turn things around in the second half, but that was only going to happen if we got out of our own half and tried to get back into it.
The second 45 began and it was immediately noticeable that Schar had moved into midfield, with him playing just behind Longstaff and Hayden in a three. It was a risk-reward decision to go back to a four-man defence, but a much needed positive move from Bruce. After all, we were never going to get an equaliser if we remained camped in our own half with 15% of the ball and not a soul within 30 yards of an isolated Andy Carroll!
Pushing up the pitch was a good start and we were seeing more of the ball, but key man Allan Saint-Maximin needed to up his game if we were to get back in this. There were signs of improvement from him and Carroll continued to be our human cannonball up top, while it was noticeable how both Hayden and Longstaff were making forward runs into the box now we were seeing more of the ball.
We weren’t creating chances, but we were finally in the game for the first time, with it finally seeming like a competitive game of football on the hour mark.
Bruce then freshened it up with 25 minutes to play, bringing on Joelinton and Gayle for a frustrated Andy Carroll and worn out Almiron, and Gayle very nearly made an immediate impact.
A fizzed cross from Saint-Maximin fell to him just six-yards out, but Gayle couldn’t keep it down. THIS was our big chance to get back into the game and an absolute sitter, with an error at the other end of the pitch costing us this time.
Moments later, we were then made to pay in brutal fashion as Sterling picked up the ball, skipped past his man and curled a controlled finish past a scrambling Karl Darlow.
It could and should have been 1-1, but a few minutes after Gayle’s huge chance and it felt all but over as City moved into a 0-2 lead.
Gayle will get pelters, but he fact that the players proved we could threaten in the second half makes that first half (and the approach used by Steve Bruce) pretty questionable. Easy to say in hindsight, but it was all too little too late.
Bruce then took off a tiring Saint-Maximin and Manquillo with 15 minutes to play, bringing on an injection of pace down our right in Lazaro and Yedlin.
The game was all but over at this point, with City moving into cruise control and the visitors coming close a few times through Sterling.
Matty Longstaff then made his first appearance for many a month, sporting a lockdown cut if I’ve ever seen one and potentially appearing for his last time at St James’ Park if no new contract can be agreed over the coming weeks.
Joelinton came on and put himself about, but the game fizzled out and City ran out 0-2 winners.
A case of what might have been if Schar didn’t give away that stupid penalty and Gayle hadn’t skied that sitter, however it’s been a nice change to see us enjoy a cup run.
Let’s hope we can go a step or two further next year and beat Bournemouth on Wednesday!