Newcastle vs Man City: Styles may make fights, but they are not making competitive football matches at all. Newcastle United’s 65-year wait for domestic trophy will continue and Manchester City will play Arsenal in next month’s FA Cup semi-finals after what was at times a ludicrously lopsided quarter-final at St James’ Park, with the penalty for Kevin De Bruyne and the fine goal for Raheem Sterling making the difference.
It is only two and a half years after a Premier League fixture was so one-sided between these two teams on the same ground that it was characterized by those watching on in the Sky Sports studio as a “joke,” an “embarrassment” and “not acceptable.” At half-time that night, City had 83 per cent ownership, ending the night on 78.
This time they went into the break at 82 percent and finished with 76 percent overall, though it often felt more uneven than the December 2017 meeting. There were points during the first half where you had to note that these two teams were playing the same sport, and when no humorous cheers greeted Newcastle’s few touches of the ball inside City’s half, the drawbacks of artificial crowd noise were laid bare.
Of course, there is more than one way to win a football match, and any criticism of Steve Bruce’s strategy will be short-sighted, refusing to acknowledge the gap of ability that any sensible manager might try to overcome.
Newcastle held out admirably for a while, but it still seemed unavoidable that inevitably City would break through, and Bruce would be disappointed by how quickly the determination of his side was broken.
City was given a penalty at the end of the first half after Fabian Schar unfairly kicked Gabriel Jesus in the leg. This was the sort of incident that would have gone unnoticed if St James’ Park had been full but Lee Mason, the referee, was alert and pointed to the location. At best this season, City’s penalty record could be characterized as patchy but, on his 29th birthday, De Bruyne scored his third consecutive spot-kick in February having taken on the duties.
Newcastle vs Man City: Schar’s mistake was so out of step with the otherwise orderly defense of Newcastle that you could only conclude he was bored with sitting deep and soaking up heat. He were not the only one. A change was needed and at half-time, Bruce transferred Schar to the midfield base, allowing Sean Longstaff and Isaac Hayden to push City further up the pitch. Subsequently something like a contest broke out and gave Newcastle one golden opportunity to level.
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