19 year-old Gael Bigirimana scored his first ever Premier League goal on Monday, December 3rd.
For most of the 2012-2013 campaign, Newcastle United have not found their form, or shown us what they can do. Their pattern in nearly all of their matches has been slow starts. Most of their goals have come in the second half. Three of their matches featured late equalizers. And three of their drawn matches involved poor calls that went their way and a fair amount of luck.
Their October 4th victory against Bordeaux in the Europa League briefly broke that pattern. Newcastle came out running, passing, and shooting. Scoring once in each half, they put together a perfect game, while keeping three of their best midfielders rested for the next match against Manchester United.
Then things fell apart for nearly two months. Suspensions, injuries, and some of the worst defensive play the club has seen since their 2009 relegation season put them on a long winless run. That winless run happened to coincide with the extrodinary 8-year renewal of manager Alan Pardew's contract.
But on Monday, Newcastle got their first Premier League victory since October 28th with an easy triumph of 10-man Wigan. The vicory was a gift. It was a lifeline.
Today, Newcastle have yet another chance to string two victorys together and show if they can carry momentum through squad and tactical changes. They are in Bordeaux today for their sixth and final Europa League group stage match. A win would secure the top of Group D. A draw or loss would probably send a team of equal caliber their way when the Europa knockout stages begin in February (teams like Lyon and Viktoria Plzen come to mind).
Newcastle supporters thought that the club was finished with Nile Ranger, who has not been able to stay out of trouble and arguably should have been released long ago. But Alan Pardew has chosen Ranger to start as one of the forwards today. It could be a last chance for him to prove he is worthy of wearing the black and white stripes.
Newcastle strategy, I would think, would be to score first, and then give the younger, reserve players a chance to hold the line. The senior players need to rest and heal before Monday's trip to Fulham, in what will be Newcastle's second globally-televised (ESPN) game in as many weeks.
Bordeaux are slight favorites today. But Their defense is not as strong as Premier League opponents. Pardew wants to win, but I suspect he also wants to see what his reservists can do. And so, two young midfielders, Frenchman Yven Moyo, and a home-grown prospect, Conor Newton, are on the bench today, available to make their senior squad debuts.
Score first. Hold the line. That's fundamental football. And Newcastle need to re-master the fundamentals before they can work on getting back into the Premier League top ten. There were bruises suffered in Monday's victory. Newcastle need to recover as bigger tests are just days away.
Now onto the more professional Newcastle blogs.
Another highlight of the night was midfielder Sylvain Marveaux’s sparkling display as the French ace shone for long periods and set up Bigirimana’s wonder goal.
The clinching goal, when it arrived, came from a most unlikely source. Master T [Bigirimana] touched the ball to his left before walloping a splendid left-foot shot into the top corner of Al-Habsi's net. A fine way for the teenager to register his first for the club.