Praesidium

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Newcastle 1-3 Liverpool

Rafa sprung one of his biggest team selection surprises of the season today. My first reaction was wingbacks, but after someone on the 606 messageboards suggested Kromkamp Carra Hyypia Agger – Gerrard Hamann Warnock – Cisse Crouch Kewell I thought it could well be a 4-4-2 with any of Cisse, Gerrard or Kewell at RM, or even Warnock at LB, Carra at RB and Kromkamp RM. Anyway, although the radio commentators thought the latter was what we were doing at first, it turned out we were indeed playing 3-4-3 with wingbacks – not for the first time.

It seemed the system suited the team well. I’ve long thought Finnan and Riise (who can both play midfield) would suit such a system, and here without either of them Warnock and Kromkamp both had fair claims to be man of the match.

Surprisingly given that he managed a rare goal against Fulham, Morientes was left out altogether. This gave Cisse another chance, even if it was on the right side, which made sense given Newcastle’s defence tend to look particularly suspect against pace.

The game went pretty much to plan. Our wingbacks were able to get up well and put in plenty of crosses (making Morientes’ absence all the more surprising), and it took Crouch just ten minutes to open the scoring. By the time he and Cisse combined to set up Gerrard for the second, we looked to be cruising.

Ameobi pulled one back just before half time, to keep the match exciting, but it was over not long into the second half. Boumsong completely missed the ball, then blatantly hauled Crouch down as he ran into the box. It was a red card and penalty, and despite my jitters Cisse struck the ball well – even if he did then pick up a silly booking for his celebration. Incidentally, this means all our strikers have now scored on their last start…

Things got a little ugly for a while after the penalty, but from there on in it was largely a matter of seeing out the remaining time, with the result pretty much settled. Rafa was even able to pull off Crouch and Gerrard to save them for Tuesday’s match against Birmingham.

The result was Cisse did get a chance to play upfront, but didn’t exactly do himself any favours – his poor touch, lack of awareness and selfishness combined to ruin several chances, most notably when he should’ve passed to Kewell. I think the radio commentators were a bit harsh though, suggesting he’d been given exactly the chance he wanted. For a start, he doesn’t strike me as the kind to lead the line alone – I’m sure he’d probably rather have been upfront, off Crouch – and his pace is suited to a different kind of service than Crouch/Morientes’ aerial ability. Still, let’s just say he didn’t do himself any favours, and I’d expect Morientes or Fowler to partner Crouch on Tuesday.

Cisse aside though, it was a good performance from pretty much everyone, giving us a good, comfortable away win. The eight goals in two games look a lot more respectable.

And Chelsea lost to Fulham…

p.s. Glenn Roeder is funny:

"What you won't get me to do is criticise Jean-Alain Boumsong publicly... I will sit down with Boumsong and go through the goals and share my view of where he could have done better" (here)

"I can't speak for Michael [Owen], but I don't see any reason why he would not want to stay next year and be part of the Newcastle team that gets into the Champions League" (here)

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