Post Match Analysis: Brugge Away (Europa League Group D)
Newcastle claimed a creditable point last night in Belgium, managing a 2-2 draw against Club Brugge having conceded two goals within the first eighteen minutes of the match.
Brugge’s misfortunes of late had been well documented before the game, having recently sacked manager Georges Leekens and losing five consecutive games prior to hosting a Newcastle side top of Group D. Few could have predicted the explosive start the home side made to the game as the out of sorts Belgian outfit scored two very early goals.
Alan Pardew was able to strengthen his ‘cup team’ by including suspended Premier League stars Cheick Tiote and captain, Fabricio Coloccini. The starting lineup saw fellow seasoned campaigners Gabriel Obertan, Shola Ameobi and Mike Williamson included, whilst Sammy Ameobi, James Tavernier and Gael Bigirimana were all given a chance to impress. Sylvain Marveaux and Vernon Anita were also given a starting opportunity, whilst Tim Krul started in goal to comprise a healthy looking Newcastle outfit, capable of winning the game.
Neither side looked flawless in the opening ten minutes. Both teams could have opened the scoring as the game settled in. Gabby Obertan fired wide having beaten his man in the game’s first chance on ‘3 minutes whilst at the other end, Krul’s hesitant clearance was charged down by the Belgian league’s top scorer, Carlos Bacca, only for his indecisiveness to let him down and skew the chance.
Obertan again spurned a goal scoring opportunity for Newcastle, latching on to a flick on from Shola Ameobi, although his shot was comfortably saved by keeper Jorgacevic who he really should have tested more.
Obertan has been an integral member impressing in Pardew’s Europa League side throughout the campaign so far, although his lack of cutting edge was exposed by Brugge who replied to his most recent miss with a goal of their own. Trickovski beautifully controlled a long ball wrong footing Coloccini, much like Suarez’s control to score for Liverpool last weekend, then firing past Tim Krul in style.
Newcastle aimed to find a response to conceding their first goal of the campaign although their situation considerably worsened when Jorgensen put Brugge two nil up within five minutes of Trickovski’s goal. If the first goal didn’t remind Newcastle fans of the goal conceded at Anfield, then the second surely will have. Gael Bigirimana cheaply lost possession in the middle of the park, much reminiscent of Jonas’ untidy passing in the centre of Anfield’s pitch, for Brugge to build an attack on.
Initially Brugge’s build up was stifled as James Tavernier, playing at left back rather than right, headed clear although the ball landed at the feet of Jorgensen who incredibly found the back of Tim Krul’s net from 25 yards. It was a strange goal for Newcastle to concede as the strike seemed to trickle slowly along the floor from so far out, the archetypal ‘daisy cutter’ in footballing terms.
After an entertaining and much involved opening from both teams, Newcastle must have felt harshly done by to be two goals down. Moreover, black and white fans must have thought it wasn’t there night when Sylvain Marveaux missed a certain goal, having failed to connect with the ball two yards out following a low Obertan cross.
Indeed there was much life in Pardew’s Newcastle side, but frustration seemed to take it’s toll with half an hour played. Trickovski and Odjida in particular looked confident in midfield, so much so that Newcastle conceded some late fouls on the Belgian side. Shola Ameobi seemed to clip Odjidja although the midfield enforcer, linked with a deadline day move to Everton in the summer, went down embarrassingly clutching his head.
Rightly, Ameobi’s challenge went unpunished despite the protests from Brugge players. Cheick Tiote though did receive a booking, having pulled down Odjidja in the middle of the park with his arm. Although, in Tiote’s defense, the booking seemed rather harsh, perhaps the earlier outcries of the Brugge players had influenced the referee’s decision as the combative Ivorian had only committed one foul prior to this challenge. Regardless, Newcastle were failing to respond to the two goal deficit and desperately needed some inspiration to ensure they didn’t fade from the game.
Newcastle did find a response, although from an unlikely source, as Vernon Anita fired in a spectacular volley from an angle to haul Newcastle back in to the game. After their faltering opening Newcastle would have been satisfied with pulling one goal back before the interval although they managed to level the game just before half time as Shola Ameobi poker a shot past Jorgacevic, following some impressive link up play with younger brother Sammy.
With the Ameobi double act creating upfront and Newcastle galvanised by Anita’s admirable first goal for the club, fortunes had reversed with Newcastle not wanting half time to come, firmly being the side in ascendancy in the game.
Following half time, Newcastle began the second half in similar fashion to the opening three minutes of the first. This time, on ’48 minutes, Marveaux found Shola Ameobi with a cross only for the goalkeeper to be equal to his headed effort. Shola seemed unplayable in the air, posing a commanding presence for Newcastle upfront.
However the Newcastle stalwart was guilty of perhaps being too forward thinking, neglecting options around him in favour of shooting opportunities. Taking advantage of some poor control from Brugge’s centre half, Ameobi could have slipped in Marveaux although opted to take a shooting chance himself, only for Jorgacevic to save well to his right.
Throughout the second half Newcastle looked the most likely to win the game and score the elusive third goal, however Brugge remained a threat as displayed from Tim Krul’s impressive save from Bacca. Ameobi proved a constant threat in the air as the Brugge defenders simply could not challenge his physical prowess. Newcastle came closest to winning the game, when late substitute Yohan Cabaye saw his angled free kick hit the bar.
The second half was devoid of drama as seen in the first. Newcastle pressured Brugge intensely for the opening twenty minutes of the final half, although their efforts went unrewarded. Brugge will have perhaps gained a little confidence from their display and will now look to push on domestically from their underwhelming position of 8th place in the league.
Newcastle remain unbeaten in Group D and can be commended for a battling display, with moments of admirable approach play. Sammy Ameobi again impressed and Vernon Anita arguably had his best game for the club on a night where positives outweighed negatives for Alan Pardew’s side. Newcastle will now be looking to secure progression to the final 32 of the Europa League by beating Maritimo at home next week, a task which both fans and staff alike will surely relish.
Tiote was booked. Ok, maybe he could have gotten away with it and it did seem a little harsh, but things just seem to be going against him at the minute. He’s having a difficult time Cheick and you can see it’s affecting his performances. He passed the ball well last night and was a solid presence in the side but he needs to sort out his approach to games. Last season I felt we’d taken huge leaps forward with Tiote and he was beginning to look like a top Premier League player, now it seems he’s gone back to what he was like when he first signed for the club. It’s frustrating and it needs sorted, he needs to cut the mistakes out. He’ll miss the West Ham game but will be back for Swansea a week later, he’s not at his best right now and we really need him to be.
Marveaux for me didn’t seize the opportunity at all. He showed glimpses of class and finesse, his dead balls seem to be in tune but he seemed to let the game pass him by. He didn’t impose himself enough. The sitter which he missed on the line was the icing on the cake, more of a bad night than good I’m afraid. In terms of playing time it is very early on in his career, and we’ve seen how players like Ben Arfa and now Obertan to be fair have improved the longer they’ve played for the side. Hopefully Marv can follow this trend as he failed to really impress last night.
At times we were wasteful in possession and Bigi didn’t have a great game. I’m a big fan of his but he gave the ball away a fair few times in the middle and that pressured our defenders. If you watch the build up to the second goal, it stems from his mistakes. It wasn’t a hugely negative night from him mind, I’m more than happy to have him at the club. Similarly for all Sammy was a threat and excited me, like Bigi the rawness of his game was on display with some poor decision making and mistakes. Obviously I’m confident in time these sides of their respective games will be eradicated however.
One final note is to consider Coloccini. At times this season he’s world class and I have always maintained he is undoubtedly our most important player. However, much like the Liverpool game, his lack of pace was exposed and he failed to deal with a searching long ball. He wasn’t great by any means last night and I’m not going to hide from that. I do however believe we’ll struggle with him out of the side and want him back asap.
Again the famous character and spirit that Pardew always seems to highlight was actually on display last night. To be fair, we went two nil down and played a lot of rotated and young players, yet managed to drag ourselves back in to a game we actually edged and should have won. We showed resilience and were resolute at times. The young players like Sammy were fearless and our approach play in the final third was at times inspired.
The passing along the floor around the Brugge 18 yard box and interchanges between Obertan, Sammy and Marv, following a flick on from Shola created chances. Pards got his tactics and selection spot on and I’d say we were really unfortunate to go 2-0 down. Definitely a good night for us.
Anita was tremendous at times. Tracking his man, winning the ball, intercepting and then adding to attacking momentum; it was all there. The goal was sublime and had me off my seat to be honest. His best performance in a Newcastle shirt. It really shows how much better our squad is this year and how much good this competition can bring.
We are seeing players like Obertan having a new found confidence and this will buoy them in their efforts to break in to the first team. Let’s look at our starting 11, what Llambais dubs our ‘purple players’. The whole point of having our squad is to push these purple players and challenge them for their starting spot. Look at Jonas for example – he has been sub standard on the left in the league. We have now seen through the Europa (and Cup game against Man U) players like Fergie and Sammy emerge, as well as Obertan performing better. Players exist within the squad who can push for a first team place, ultimately making us a better team and far more formidable squad.
One final mention goes to Shola. Untouchable in the air, strong on the ball and confidence oozing. Certainly a good display rather than bad. However I don’t want ot get carried away. He was guilty of slowing play down at times, and I actually felt he disrupted the flow of the interchanges behind him, when Marv, Oba and Sammy were making forward runs. He was poor against Brugge at home, shooting too much and from too far out. I know he’s a striker first and foremost but he could look to bring more people in to play and consider other options. I do however have him as one of my favourite players at the club, this was his best performance of Group D to date.
Krul -6. Not at fault for the first goal, second goal strange and elusive. Did keep Bacca out and made saves from Lestienne too. Goal kicks were poor and clearances, especially the one blocked by Bacca, were a worry though.
Anita -7.5. Looked the complete package. Defensively and offensively, big contribution and barely put a foot wrong. Carry this form in to the Premier League.
Willo -6.5. Looked good, even won offensive headers which is a bit of a change to see for those of you who have watched all of our games this season! Outshone Colo to be fair.
Colo -6. Not his best performance in a Newcastle shirt. Trickovski got the better of him and we saw his pace at the back exposed unfortunately. He will however be a colossal miss for the Prem.
Tav -6. Not his best position left back and had a hard job with Bacca. Lost a lot of headers and his clearance led to the second goal. However he pushed up the left a lot and made some notable interceptions. I really like the look of this kid.
Obertan -7. A European Obertan performance I’d say. Switched wings, had a go and had chances. He was far from perfect but is gaining in confidence, in a competition doing him the world of good. Most impressively, he left his position to look for the ball at the end of the game. He wanted to win and contribute, doesn’t hide from games anymore. Well done, silence your doubters.
Bigi -6. Not the best I’ve seen him which must be a testament to him. Sloppy in possession but even as a defensive player looked to assist in the attack, particularly at the beginning of the second half. Still getting there.
Tiote -6. Booked again which gets the highlight inevitably doesn’t it? He needs to curb this side to his game. He is overly aggressive and could be so much more of a better player. Some good defensive work on display nonetheless.
Marv -6. A shame he missed the chance on the line because when he did actually have the ball he was tidy. Definitely could have done more.
Sammy -7. A typical performance we can now say! Tricky, confident, fast and forward thinking. Some poor decision making displayed but is learning and certainly improving.
Shola -7. Constantly on the ball and playing with confidence, notably unplayable in the air. However, perhaps too direct at times and a bit more awareness could have won us the game. It remains though that this was a good night for the big man, good to see him score.
Taylor and Cabaye – 6, steadied the ship a bit but no need to glorify contributions. Unlucky Cabaye’s freekick to hit the bar but I think it was more of an intended cross than shot.
Amalfitano – didn’t see enough to merit a rating. Will get another chance in the last two games though you’d think.
- Opportunities taken and missed. It was a big night for Anita and Marveaux in particular, who were given the stage to impress. Vernon took his chance well, showing what a class act he is. Marveaux however didn’t rise to the occasion; hopefully he progresses as the season goes on.
- 8000 fans! Although not everyone had tickets, Newcastle brought a huge fan base over to Belgium and night’s like these are what it’s all about.
- The tricky feet of Sammy Ameobi! Sammy is a talent, raw but tricky and a good player to watch. I’ve likened him to a poor man’s Ben Arfa whenever I’ve seen him, but last night showed how quick and skilful he actually is. It seems his feet move faster to create space for himself than his brain can keep up with!
We dragged ourselves back in to the game and it was an entertaining match to watch from start to finish. It’s great having these midweek games and the fans can enjoy that more than anyone. We weren’t perfect but let’s be honest, we played youngsters and very few first team regulars. It was a good result and there really were so many positives to take. Anita in particular will carry this form in to the weekend’s game with West Ham which I’m sure he’ll be a part of.
We have gotten ourselves in to a great position whereby we need to beat Maritimo to qualify with a game left over against Bordeaux. Pardew has done a fine job in rotating the side and I’m more than confident of winning this group and adding to the current good times we are experiencing at Newcastle United currently.
Roll on West Ham, where we’ll be looking to stop former oldboys Nolan and Carroll without captain Colo at the back, there’s never a dull moment around here is there?!