No one thought Newcastle could advance in the current League Cup after drawing Manchester CIty away.
But tonight, Newcastle won their first ever match at the Etihad. And they did it with several of their reserve players. It was almost a youth squad. It was incredible. More significant, it was deserved. Newcastle's kids outplayed Man City for 98 minutes.
It was Newcastle's biggest win in the League Cup since upsetting Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in September 2010.
Man City dominated possession, 60 to 30 percent. However, they suffered from the same bug that inflicted Tottenham on Sunday. They couldn't get quality shots on goal, while Newcastle's defense and Rob Elliot stopped all the others.
Ryan Taylor made his first appearance in over two years, since tearing a cruciate ligament in his right knee. He led the defense, while Gabriel Obertan (man of the match) was the most defensive of the midfielders tonight.
Oh yes, who did Pardew select to play tonight?
Newcastle were deployed in a 4-3-3 formation, with two teenagers, Adam Armstrong and Rolando Aarons, leading the way. There were six changes made compared to their last start at Tottenham. And it payed-off brilliantly. City were vulnerable early, and Aarons made them pay with a goal in the 6th minute. From then on, Newcastle played with intensity, and City just couldn't take back control of the match.
Paul Dummett, normally a left back, was asked to play as a center back, and he held up fairly well. Massadio Haïdara might have had his best match yet as a Newcastle player, putting in a full 90 minutes shadowing James Milner, and making the most interceptions of any player in the match.
City suffered injuries during the match, so an already weakened squad became weaker as the match went on. Defender David Silva limped off in the 8th minute. But that has no effect on the judgement of Newcastle's stellar performance.
Pardew and company knew they could virtually guarantee victory with a second goal, and so they began the second half almost the same way they began the second half at White Hart Lane, with a pre-kickoff substitution of an existing striker (Aarons) with Sammy Ameobi. Aarons had a tremendous first half, but I suspect he ran out of steam, and was not getting firm control of the ball after he scored early.
Newcastle sealed the deal with two substitutions in the 65th minute. Moussa Sissoko came on for Janmaat, and Emmanuel Rivière came on for Armstrong. 11 minutes later, Sissoko dribbled through the left side of the area and blasted the ball to the far right side of the net. He looked angry after scoring. You could tell he had been waiting to score for months.
The Mags could still blow it, of course. There were 6 minutes of injury time added. Riviere could have made it three when the ball crossed inches away from him in the box. Newcastle could have sat back during those final minutes, but Haïdara, Obertan, Coloccini, and Taylor all finished strong on defense.
And there's no need to bring up the officiating blunder, is there? Obertan was on-side, and about to receive a pass at the top of the box, when Aleksandar Kolarov took him down before he made contact with the ball. There was no whistle and no penalty kick given. There wasn't even a free kick given. Replays from every angle show that it should have been at least a free kick, and at most, a PK and a red card. It was outrageous. But it's moot now. Also, how nutty is it that Obertan was nearly in alone on goal at the Etihad, with his team up a goal? This is how Newcastle drives us fans crazy. But what a fun two weeks this has been.
On Saturday, Newcastle host the Reds at what surely will be a loud, and slightly wild St. James' Park. Liverpool are suffering from morale and confidence problems at the moment. Newcastle must remain confident and organized. Their 4-3-3 formation held very well against City. They need to maintain their form as the first team players, led by Tim Krul, take the pitch in less than 72 hours.
Alan Pardew was, shall we say, smug? He couldn't quite contain himself in the first interview for Sky Sports. He settled down for the team video (the second video below).
Now on to some more links.
Phil, I Wish I Was A Geordie: