Newcastle played one of their best halves of the season to start this match. At halftime I was counting up the points and thinking about how awesome it will be when Arsenal lose tomorrow and NUFC jump over them in the standings. I'm allowed to do that, because I don't play the game. It seems the players didn't get the memo that the game is 90 minutes long. Even before the first penalty decision, they were flat and disinterested, as if they expected the scoreline to stay 1-0.
And then the first penalty happened. It was a light push by Davide Santon that probably happened outside the area, and that's how linesperson Siam Massey signaled it, but Lee Mason overruled her, and everybody knows that Lee Mason gets what Lee Mason wants. That decision would pale in comparison to the one that would lead to the third goal, as Lee Mason pointed to the spot after Tim Krul had the audacity to save the ball before Andy Johnson came crashing in. Lee Mason.
But enough about the officiating. There's a line in sports between swagger and arrogance, and teams that cross over from the former to latter will often fall flat on their faces. Newcastle are having a great season, better than most of us expected or hoped for, but they're not good enough to shut everything down after 45 minutes. Alan Pardew put in an excellent game plan that had Jonas Gutierrez playing a roving position and causing havoc everywhere he went, but apparently he didn't realize that the opposing manager is allowed to make adjustments. Martin Jol substituted Andy Johnson, who stretched the pitch and opened things up for Clint Dempsey, who had been silent up until that point. Pardew failed to adjust, leaving in the high line, and the Magpies were continually burned on balls over the top.
Also of note is the lack of finishing with Demba Ba out of the lineup. Newcastle had their way in the first half - and that's an understatement, but didn't convert any of their opportunities until Danny Guthrie stepped up and blasted one from outside the box. They honestly should have had at least 2 or 3 goals for their efforts, but instead they (and we as supporters) all shrugged our shoulders and said, "Well, we got one in the first half, that should be good enough." It's telling that the best chances came from shots from distance like Guthrie's. The target man is still an important role in the modern game, and Newcastle don't have one at the moment.