There are plenty of football cliches around and the term “A game of two halves” couldn’t have been more true than in this game.
Lewis Hall, Tino Livramento, Paul Dummett, Jamaal Lascelles, and Lewis Miley were all handed rare starts. Joelinton returned from injury and Jacob Murphy was called on again. It was a much-changed team, to say the least, and that was evident in the first half.
Newcastle barely laid a glove on the treble winners in the first half, although Murphy surprisingly had the best chance of either side in the opening 45 minutes. The winger was sent through on goal but couldn’t find the back of the net, as Ortega stuck out a leg to concede a corner.
Bruno Guimaraes and Anthony Gordon were introduced at halftime. Whether it was their introduction that ignited some belief in the side, or because Newcastle had become more of a threat towards the end of the first half—whatever it was—it felt like Newcastle wanted it more than Manchester City in the second half.
They were aggressive and pressed intently. The intensity really was their identity in the final 45 minutes.
The impressive Lascelles fizzed a ball into Murphy, who neatly turned and space began to open up. Joelinton continued with the ball getting close to the byline before delivering an exquisite ball across the box to find Alexander Isak. He couldn’t miss, and duly sent St James’ Park wild.
In many ways, this game summed up Newcastle’s season so far. In parts, they were way off it but then suddenly came to life and delivered a devastating performance.
Gordon once again changed the game—his enthusiasm is infectious. Chasing down Mateo Kovacic and producing a crowd-pleasing tackle was his main highlight.
Isak emulated that moment by chasing down and pressing the City defense and blocking a pass back to Ortega.
St James’ Park had come alive, they had little to shout about in the first period, but this is what Eddie Howe’s Newcastle is all about. That second-half performance is what the manager will want to watch on the pitch every week.
Dummett, who was playing his first competitive game in over a year produced one of the best performances of the night. His crunching tackle/clearance in the closing stages epitomized his determination to win.
Livramento was rightly named man of the match after keeping Jack Grealish quiet for the majority of the game.
The reward for dumping Manchester City out of the cup? A trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United. Newcastle have perhaps had the toughest set of fixtures in the opening few months of the season, and the fourth-round draw continued in the same vein.
Howe’s side are flying now and looking closer to reaching the levels of the team through last season. Funny how quickly things change in football!
A few weeks ago, after the Brighton humiliation, it was all doom and gloom. Newcastle now have momentum and are full of confidence. Come out unscathed in the next three before the international break, and Newcastle will be in a very healthy position in all competitions.
Newcastle host Burnley at St James’ Park on Saturday before PSG come to Toon next Wednesday.