Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Heaven help us all.
Newcastle (in the 4-4-2): Harper, Steven Taylor, Coloccini, Bassong, Jose Enrique, Lovenkrands, Ryan Taylor, Geremi, Gutierrez, Martins, Smith.
Subs: Krul, Cacapa, Butt, Ameobi, Edgar, LuaLua, Carroll.
Man Utd (in the 4-4-2 also): Van der Sar, O'Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Ronaldo, Fletcher, Carrick, Park, Berbatov, Rooney.
Subs: Foster, Anderson, Giggs, Scholes, Evans, Tevez, Eckersley.
This already doesn't look good. Coloccini apparently got some advice from his dad, who coached Tevez when he was a lad, but that won't help as the Devil begins the match on the bench. Fergie has selected a strong team, bringing back several first-teamers who missed the festivities on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Newcastle have managed to select 11 players from their squad who will face a massive test of their self-esteem, and they've included Alan Smith, a former Man United player who is unique in that he wasn't very good.
Honestly, is there any hope whatsoever?
They're ready to go, and so am I. This will be awful.
The pitch looks absolutely shocking, coated in rain and gloam that might only temporarily slow down the visitors.
Within seconds of the kick-off, the Magpies give the ball away and Rooney is clean through on goal, except for the minor issue of being marginally offside. Yep, 25 seconds in, and almost a goal for United.
2 mins: Newcastle are fearless! Two quick attacks and some decent passing on the soaked grass, culminating in Obafemi Martins shooting well wide of van der Sar's goal.
3 mins: Rooney's offside again as Vidic looks to set him free over the top, but it bears noting that Newcastle are rather simple to unlock. Just lob it over the top and expect to beat the trap. It's a matter of time, as the home side appear to be defending from the half-way line.
5 mins: Sloppy would be an understatement. Not many passes from either side are ending up where they're supposed to.
An early corner for the Magpies, and Ryan Taylor will try to cause a shock in the box...
... he puts it to the far post, where Steven Taylor heads back across goal, but it's easily cleared. More posession thus far for Newcastle, but I suspect the charade will not last.
8 mins: Ronaldo has a rather simple time of getting into the Newcastle area, dribbling his way through and firing off a shot, but it's deflected wide.
GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL for the home side! I just vomited up my central nervous system. I repeat, THE CASTLE HAS BEEN BREACHED.
I guess we can end van der Sar's goalless streak now. Stunner from Newcastle, and it came from a wonderful move. The Magpies cleared the corner with ease and counter-attacked down the left with Gutierrez, who found Martins. When it came back to Gutierrez, he took a rather speculative shot from the edge of the box, but Edwin gaffed on the save and it bobbled up neatly for Peter Lovenkrands, who tapped in to an empty net with the defense frozen. Hilarity, schadenfreude, call it what you will. Newcastle are in front! Newcastle United 1, Manchester United 0
12 mins: Nice shot from Rooney from some 20-odd yards as the defense fails to properly clear a cross from the right. Still, United are threatening, and if the Magpies try and defend for the next 78 minutes, they will be routed. Please don't stop attacking, lads. PLEASE.
Another gorgeous counter-attack by Newcastle, who are playing with the fearlessness of a drunk tourist at San Fermin. Martins releases Lovenkrands as United are slow to get back on defense, and when Oba gets the ball back, he glides past Vidic and fires just wide of the post. Should have been 2-0, if he'd shot across goal. As such, United breathe a sigh of relief, and Fergie jumps to his feet on the touchline, presumably to reorgnanize. He hasn't had to work this hard for a while.
16 mins: This is what United want. Alan Smith scythes down Ronaldo at the edge of the box, and the home fans are rather subdued as CR-7 waits to take the free kick...
... Ronaldo hits the wall. Newcastle break AGAIN, this time with Gutierrez, and Rooney decides to foul him to slow things down.''
18 mins: It's all NUFC at the moment as my feed crashes and burns. They're not afraid, it seems, and they can't afford to be considering where they are in the relegation mire.
Free kick for Newcastle on the edge of United's box. Ryan Taylor loops it safely over the bar, but make no mistake: the normally cool, casual United are looking rather shell-shocked at the moment. As a Liverpool fan, I'll note that we stuffed this lot 5-1 before Christmas.
20 mins: GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL, and you knew this was coming. O'Shea and Park play a lovely 1-2 on the right wing, opening things up, and Wayne Rooney gets it just inside the area, takes a touch, and fires it right through Harper's hands. A lovely goal from a team I hate more than any other in the history of anything.
Expect a return to normalcy shortly. Newcastle United 1, Manchester United 1
22 mins: Both sides aren't showing much interest in defending at the moment, which is making this easier. Gutierrez is having his way with John O'Shea (as most players do), cutting in from the left and running into three defenders, winning a corner for his efforts.
Ryan Taylor puts it right in the six-yard box, but no-one can control it and United break the other way. Bassong is the last man and cuts off Rooney's pass to Carrick at the top of the box, then NUFC break back the other way, but no-one can get on the end of Jose Enrique's dangerous cross and United have a goal kick and a breather.
End-to-end stuff at the moment. Plenty more goals in this one.
26 mins: The M.O. to beat United is simple enough in theory, though the practice is quite different: don't play scared. As Blackburn showed a fortnight ago, if you show the nerve to take the game to Fergie's lads, they're not as daunting an opponent. Already, Newcastle have had four or five quality openings, and we're barely midway through the first half.
It remains to be seen whether they can keep it up for the full 90, but already, NUFC are settling in and enjoying some decent possession, with MUFC playing the part of the headless chickens.
Hey look, Robbie Keane scored for Spurs! He'd be a wonderful addition at Anfield, some day... oh, how a lad can dream.
Watching the replays of Newcastle's goal still puts a smile on my face. For a guy who was 89 minutes short of owning the European scoreless streak record, it was an awful error. Lest I mention that he's averaged just 3 saves a game during this streak? Yeah, on that NUFC goal, it's safe to say that his backline deserve the bulk of the credit for that clean sheets run.
30 mins: Another lovely attack from Newcastle, but Ryan Taylor's final ball across goal misses everyone and goes agonizingly wide of van der Sar's post.
And I've lost my feed. Bollocks. Give me a minute or two...
... found another! Get in. Just in time to see Ronaldo shoot a mile wide and appeal for a corner that shouldn't have been. Man, these guys get every call their way, don't they?
36 mins: Ronaldo pops up on the right wing and tries to find Fletcher in the middle. He does, but Fletcher's shot is weak and Harper smothers it easily.
It's all United at the moment. Tons of possession around the NUFC area, and plenty of last-ditch tackles to keep them out.
Corner for United. Carrick to take...
... and so close to goal #2. The Magpies decide to let the ball bounce across the 6-yard box, and Vidic dives in but puts his header over the bar. Not very good defending.
SCORES AROUND THE GROUNDS:
Wigan 0, West Ham 1 (Cole 34")
Man City 1 (Elano 24" pen), Aston Villa 0
Stoke 1 (Beattie 14"), Bolton 0
Spurs 2 (Keane 9", Pavlyuchenko 14"), Middlesbrough 0
Blackburn 0, Everton 0
Fulham 0, Hull 0
41 mins: The pace has slowed considerably, with United having plenty of time/space to knock the ball around without much menace. The first meaningful move for Newcastle in a while culminated in a Ryan Taylor free kick that he wastes.
Carlton Cole has managed to get himself sent off for his second bookable offense within 10 minutes, during which time he also put the Hammers ahead. That's some good productivity right there.
44 mins: A nice move for United down the left as Ronaldo frees Evra round the back. He squares it for Park, whose shot is blocked before it can trouble Harper. The Magpies are falling into the trap of playing 9 behind the ball and letting Man U bring the game to them. That approach rarely works, but thankfully half-time is just around the corner.
Rooney gets caught offside for at least the 5th time in the first half, and we're seconds away from the whistle.
45 mins + 1: Uh oh. A bit scrappy from United at the back, and Ronaldo goes down hard after meeting the business end of Steven Taylor's arm/elbow. Didn't look so bad at first, but he's in the book nonetheless. Ronaldo is still rolling around on the floor, presumably looking for his contact lens.
HALF TIME: Newcastle United 1, Manchester United 1
Not before Rio gets himself booked after the whistle as he argues with the ref about what just happened. In trying to get Taylor sent off, he's picked up a yellow card. A stupid, stupid move.
Take your break, ladies and gents. I pity van der Sar, who's about to get an almighty bollocking for his error early on.
Spurs are now up 3-0 at home to 'Boro, which makes me ask two questions:
1. How on earth did LFC fuck that one up?
2. Where was this scoring on Sunday in that Cup Final?
Here they come, lurching out of the tunnel. Fergie is still bickering a bit about that Taylor/Ronaldo donnybrook on the stroke of half-time, but it's water under the bridge now. Here's hoping that Rio's pointless yellow card gains some significance in the second half.
45 minutes to hope for a miracle. United's winning has to end sometime, right? Somewhere, Guus and Rafa begin a fresh round of prayer.
47 mins: Lively from United early on, as Evra almost gets free in the box after good work on the left from Ronaldo, but it's not to be. Then, Martins dribbles past Ferdinand AND Carrick, only to deliver an awful cross-field pass intended for Lovenkrands. It goes out for a goal kick.
Vidic is down after a rather nasty aerial tussle with Obafemi Martins. His cheekbone looks all kinds of fucked up, but instead of getting medical treatment, he decides to go after Oba for the elbow he just took to the face. They're both fine. Quit bitching, ladies.
50 mins: The fun continues, as Rio gives up a silly free-kick when he nudges Lovenkrands off the ball in the corner. Didn't look like much, but karma reacts when Ryan Taylor crosses the ball right over the top of goal.
52 mins: Very nice work by van der Sar, if a little dangerous. Gutierrez plays a delightful ball through the middle to Lovenkrands. Vidic gets a touch on it, but it falls nicely for the Danish(?) striker. Luckily for MUFC, Edwin reacts quickly to take the ball away, before running with it a bit and hoofing it clear.
55 mins: Safety first from Newcastle, as Harper palms Evra's cross out for a corner under minimal pressure. Carrick delivers a weak corner, so what difference did it make? Meanwhile, Vidic goes off for a minute as his cheek has swelled up and looks awful. Bit of blood, too.
GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL, and dear oh dear, what a mess. An innocuous cross into the area is met by Steven Taylor. He tries to chest it back to Harper, but slips and chests it right into Park's path. Ji-Sung knocks it past Harper and it's going wide, but Dimitar Berbatov is at the far post to tap it in. Shocking gaffe, and the visitors have a lead that is utterly undeserved. The commentator on the feed I'm watching (Fox Sports in Spanish?) then celebrates by singing Berbatov's name to the tune of La Marseillaise. Figure that one out, if you dare. Newcastle United 1, Manchester United 2
It's now a mountain for Newcastle to climb, and they have a reasonable shout for a penalty within minutes. Martins gets between Vidic and Evra and goes down while trying to turn and shoot. Replays show he just slipped, and Fergie can apply that smug smile to his ruddy visage once more. His team are winning when they shouldn't be, and all signs point to a rather dull final 30 minutes as the visitors play 8 behind the ball.
This game could use a sub or two. Shola Ameobi is available, though I'm not sure what good that would do.
63 mins: This suddenly became a lot less fun, as United nearly make it 3. Ronaldo does his twinkle-toes in the box and backheels to Park who is primed to shoot, but a lovely challenge by Bassong snuffs out the danger. Vidic gets his head on Carrick's corner, but it's over the bar. Replay shows Harper got a finger on it, but no corner was given. Does anyone really care?
Yeah, this game's over.
68 mins: MUFC appeal for a penalty as Coloccini brings Park down as they challenge for a header, but nothing's given. Already the visitors are beginning to play 4-foot passes up and down their backline as NUFC appear to have just one striker who's willing to chase possession.
74 mins: zzzzzzz, and my feed's gone down again. Bear with me. Moments ago, van der Sar does well to collect Ryan Taylor's high, looping cross with 2 NUFC strikers underneath him, but the dangers gone, and we can look forward to 15 more minutes of Rio and Nemanja passing it amongst themselves. God, I hate this fucking team.
Sub for Newcastle, as the game enters the slow death rattle that most Man U games do when they're winning with time to kill... Ryan Taylor, he of the awful corners/free kicks, comes off, and Andrew Carroll comes on. I have no idea who that is, or what he does, or what he's good at. Regardless, he's got 13+ minutes to conjure up an equalizer, or to help with that cause.
Sorry about that, I lost my feed and went to the loo. Of course it didn't matter, did it? You know what happened. Fergie's crew snoozed through the past 10 minutes without incident.
FULL TIME: Newcastle United 1, Manchester United 2
There it is. If there was any lingering doubt, mark it down: the title race is over.
Man City 2, Aston Villa 0
Stoke 2, Bolton 0
Wigan 0, West Ham 1
Fulham 0, Hull 0 (almost finished)
Spurs 4, Middlesbrough 0 (almost finished)
Blackburn 0, Everton 0 (almost finished)