There is this thing called technology. No, I’m talking about the latest laptop or screen-folding mobile phone to hit the market. I’m not talking about the development of systems crafted to showcase stock value changes in the middle of Times Square. Of course, I’m far from using this paragraph to talk about the creation of platforms such as your drug-aking Instagram and TikTok. That’s too much, folks.
I’m just talking about broadcasting live events and showing some replays of this or that play. That latter thing, my dear readers, happened for the first time in 1963 when a true revolution came to life by way of an American by the name of Tony Verna. Yes, 1963 you just read.
This very kind man brought something to our televisions and the sports realm that had never existed before, but it’s now been almost 60 years since this thing we call “instant replay” became a thing. Yet here we are. More on that later.
Our little preview and lineups’ post for the game against Crystal Palace on Saturday made it very clear: there was a larger-than-life chance Newcastle was going to miss all three of Bruno, Allan Saint-Maximin, and Callum Wilson—all of them, when available, clear starters for Eddie Howe. That feeling, based on multiple reports, turned into a very opaque reality when the starting eleven from the Magpies dropped on Twitter posted by the official club’s account.
No Bruno. No ASM. No Callum. In went the pairing of Sven Botman and Fabian Schar to man the middle of the defense (both rested against Liverpool last Wednesday). Out went Dan Burn, the perennial starter at the center or left flank on the D-line. Ryan Fraser and Sean Longstaff, along with Alexander Isak, repeated as starters due to the injuries to the aforementioned trio of players.
Only Liverpool and Manchester City have been able to earn victories at St James Park since Eddie Howe became the Magpies' man in charge. One thing is clear by now, and that’s the fact that this SJP stadium has turned into a goddam fortress hella hard to assault. That, combined with Crystal Palace’s lack of goalscoring punching—they must feel more than relieved about having retained Wilfried Zaha around this summer—and the introduction of Jordan Ayew and Tyrick Mitchell in the starting lineup was making things look easy (at least on paper and live and without needing any scrutinous video review) for a start.
Yesterday was a fine game of Premier League plays. Things kicked off with an extraordinarily bonkers Merseyside derby in which Liverpool, even when afforded seven more minutes of added time to try and get three points instead of one—after, of course, getting eight such minutes though only five were officially called for in the midweek game against Newcastle—couldn’t do more than finish tied with a resilient Everton side.
After the Benny Hill-ish type of game both the Reds and the Toffees ended up playing, odds were this Tyneside-bound affair was never going to bring anyone to his living edge. Cue the low-scoring recent meetings between both sides for a preview of what was surely coming.
Though not incredibly prolific in creating opposition-half actions, both sides started the game determined to wreak some havoc. Disciplined mayhem was it, though, with only 28 misdirected passes against 127 of them successfully completed by both sides. One of the former, though, could have proved key to the early development of an entirely different game that, sadly and for one reason or another, would never be.
That ill-advised pass, of course, was the one attempted by Joachim Andersen in the middle of the pasture. Believe it or not, this is the moment that started it all; Joachim about to get possession of the ball.
Andersen attempted to pass the ball forward to his right only to find Isak’s stretched leg after a good pressuring move that helped him launch a lightning-quick counterattack to place himself in front of a helpless Vicente Guaita. Too bad for the most-expensive player doing it for the richest of clubs in the history of the sport—as they’d make you believe—who couldn’t finish this thing.
That time-stopped frame doesn’t make the play, Isak, nor the combination of the two any legitimate justice, all things considered. Looking at it from a standstill perspective one could have thought that with the goalie already sitting on his feet, then running past him would have been the easiest of things. Another person could think that trying to put the ball to one of his sides would have been clever, considering the still-there angle to put the ball right there and make it kiss the net. And both of those folks would be wrong.
After Isak’s gazelle, there were three hungry Crystal Palace eagles with a bunch of sharpened nails—and closing in quickly, for that matter. The reaction time narrows limitlessly at such moments and Isak was tasked with maximizing a millisecond-long period in order to put a little ball of leather into a nicely crafted net of cotton. Not the greatest of outlooks, is it?
So that was the first chance of a million more to come, none of them putting Newcastle up and ahead.
By the 27th minute, the flag did not go so instead did Pope. That was the first chance for a Palace side that, in my humble opinion, left me as cold as an England top-flight side ever could have. I know about the current status of the club. I know about the lack of firepower up front. I know about how much prying went on around Selhurst Park during the last few days asking the football gods to make Zaha stay in the capital—donning red and blue stripes, that is.
Zaha was a one-man wrecking crew for Crystal Palace and, obviously, he failed to demolish the Magpie Wall over the 90 minutes he spent roaming St James. Jordan Ayew being the best of the attacking players deployed by manager Patrick Vieira tells you all you need to know about the in-shambles status of this Eagles side. Eze had a rough day at the office. Mateta was good, but far from great. And Schlupp was mediocre at best.
The match was turning into a very muddy affair approaching the second half when Guaita, after his counterpart at the other end a few minutes earlier, miraculously saved a Matt Targett header (launched close to the keeper's body, it must be said) on pure instinct and reflexes. As if that was not frustrating enough for the Geordie faithful, Joelinton couldn’t get his left foot to the rebound by maybe one, two centimeters, and a Sven Botman attempt at goal on a last-gasp hail mary got deflected by a Palace defender and went out of play.
This was already electric enough to send some bodies into black bags cold. So of course, it had to be Almirón sending a shot straight into a Crystal Palace goalpost.
This game got me thinking about the very own Almirón and how left-footed he is, has always been, and will forever be. Even though he’s not your clear inside forward—say, your Arjen Robben of old—cutting inside and into the middle of the pitch and firing away without any type of contempt with the inside of his boot instead of always looking for the curling, forced, outside-touch effort—say, your Richarlison assist to Harry Kane in the midweek game.
Almirón is only 27 but he’s most definitely a finished product and one not about to change his game nor have anyone advising him, let alone him taking on that advice and flipping sides to start his runs on the left wing to finish them with crosses and properly, natural-body-position passes. Anyway, lost cause right there.
On to the second half after Sven Botman fired one toward Guaita only for the shot to get stopped once more.
And of course, the 51st minute came and with it Newcastle’s leading goal. For a brief moment, that was. Not so brief was Guaita’s nap, nor Willock’s extended period of floor-lying numbness having no clue of what had just happened. It was expected, but still incredibly funny, to see the camera zoom straight into Tyrick Mitchell’s face after the ball went past the Palace goal line. Of course, Mitchell was the last man to touch the ball; alas, the own goal. Obviously, for everyone watching live or later, Mitchell was also the only man making the full play possible to develop as it did.
Mitchell was the man tasked with covering Joe Willock’s run toward the goal trying to reach the ball to head it home. And Mitchell did a perfectly fine job in tracking the Magpies midfielder from outside the penalty area into the six-yard box.
Mitchell was also the only reason why Willock blasted Guaita like a wrecking ball demolishing the tallest build of them all. Had Mitchell not pushed Joe, then Willock would have definitely avoided the collision or, at the very least, not caused Guaita to fall to the pitch as cynically as the goalkeeper did.
So focused Mitchell was on pushing Willock and disrupting the play forcing Joe into fouling Guaita that the Eagle didn’t even know where the ball was as shown by his surprise when the rock hit his shoulder and softly bounced into his own team’s goal.
Perks of having people like Tony Verna around in the 60s. Not for referee Michael Salisbury, nor those in the VAR room, nor anybody slightly related to a Premier League organization that is either ruled by Stevie Wonder or a bunch of typewriting monkeys scripting things every Monday.
It could have been 2-0 up for Newcastle had Isak been more competent earlier. It must have been 1-0 had unbiased logic prevailed. It was 0-0 when all was said and done. And away we go once more...
Thank God we’ve got a Pope. And thank Pope because he always seems to be on the right spot waiting to block all sorts of shots.
Another ridiculous save by Guaita past the 75th minute and a chance wasted by Joe Willock already into the 80s was all that was remaining.
In Allan Shearer’s own words, “it’s shocking, it’s abysmal, it’s disgraceful.” In Tony Verna’s, had he still been around and among us (RIP), “it’s not about the VAR, it’s about those watching the replays and making the decisions.”
Soft month, this September. No more than two games left in the Magpies' schedule for the three-and-change weeks ahead, one away in London and one home hosting Bournemouth. International break between that match and October’s first.
Howay the lads!