A courageous and promising display by an injury-ravaged Newcastle United at the Parc des Princes last night was not enough for them to get all three points... as the Magpies were absolutely robbed of victory.
A late—very late—VAR check for a handball by an impressive Tino Livramento saw Kylian Mbappe convert from the spot with seconds remaining.
Alexander Isak had put the visitors in front in what was a fantastic performance by Eddie Howe’s side.
Newcastle arrived in Paris knowing they must avoid defeat or their first Champions League campaign in two decades would be over. Howe’s side started nervously, with Mbappe forcing a save from Nick Pope in the opening exchanges. Newcastle’s confidence began to build and they grew into the game.
Lewis Miley started alongside Bruno Guimaraes and Joelinton in midfield and the 17-year-old did not look out of place on the biggest stage. In fact, he was one of Newcastle’s best performers on the night. It was a time for players to step up and take their chance, and Miley certainly took his with both hands.
Lewis Miley’s Emergence
As Miley was named in the starting line-up against Chelsea at St James’ Park on Saturday, not many batted an eyelid yesterday. Not because of Newcastle’s ridiculous injury list, mind you, Miley was there on merit.
His performance against Bournemouth before the international break gave Howe much-needed encouragement. Miley was the best player in a Newcastle shirt that night, in what was a tough matchup for the Magpies. He didn’t let anyone down and was one of the few who could walk out the Vitality stadium with their head held high.
Miley outshone Enzo Fernandez, a World Cup winner and a player who cost Chelsea a whopping £106.8m, last weekend. The Stanley-born midfielder covered so much ground on Saturday and topped off his impressive performance with an assist for the opening goal.
In Paris, it was to be a tougher test. A test of his character and to see if he can cut it with the best on the biggest stage. Miley emphatically passed those tests, his composure on the ball for someone so young being refreshing to see.
Not only was Miley not phased by the occasion, he shone, and was perhaps the best midfielder on the night. His positioning is quite incredible, and it helped Newcastle so much throughout the game.
Blocks, tackles and interceptions when his side needed it most, Miley proved to everyone watching that he is not here to make up the numbers.
When Howe has a full squad to choose from, you can bet that Miley will still be in the mix for a starting position, his performances have been that good in recent weeks he’s made it very difficult for Howe to leave him out.
VAR controversy deflates Newcastle’s warriors
Eight minutes were added on in Paris, and we’re still scratching our heads wondering where on earth that came from. The sickening moment came in the 96th minute when Livramento was adjudged to handle the ball. No matter how many times you look at this incident, every single time the outcome would be no penalty... except for last night.
The ball bounced off the full-back’s thigh, onto his chest, and ultimately glanced the underarm on the way back down. The distance from the ball and the pace of it were seemingly ignored in the review. The referee didn’t point to the spot originally until VAR sent him over to the screen to analyze the play. That is perhaps more worrying. The referee was given time and countless replays to look over the action and change his on-field decision.
Howe must be feeling the same as Wolves manager Gary O’Neil this morning—VAR isn’t the problem but it becomes the issue when incompetent officials are using it.
Mbappe gleefully received an early Christmas present and slotted the ball past Pope, who pulled out one of his best performances in a Newcastle shirt.
Newcastle are down but not out
Mbappe’s last-minute penalty means Newcastle have to beat AC Milan at St James’ Park and hope PSG do not win against Borussia Dortmund to go through to the last sixteen of the Champions League.
It is still possible, and to go into the final group game with the qualification from the group of death still achievable is an incredible feat in itself.
This was always going to be a tough season for Newcastle, playing every three or four days would always create issues in terms of fitness and fatigue. Their injury-hit squad have performed admirably and it makes you wonder how far this side could go with everyone fit.