Thursday, 7 February 2013

Newcastle roller coaster takes new twist

It's not often you can come away from a football match feeling both joyous and bewildered but that's exactly how I felt walking down from level 7 on Saturday. Newcastle United, the wee club in the north east had managed to nullify and defeat the reigning champions of Europe, snatching the game with a late winner. A result even Alex Ferguson would be proud of.

There's something about NUFC that's special. Something that separates it from every other club. Every time you try to escape the chaos, something extraordinary happens. In the latest twist, it was a gift from across the  water in the shape of Yohan Cabaye, Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran. They led the Toon to victory with Moussa Sissoko steamrolling everyone and everything.

I went into Saturday's game slightly more optimistic. The vital win at Villa settled my nerves and meant I had some belief that we could our season back on track. I hoped for a draw and felt it was achievable - Eden Hazard was suspended and Turnbull was likely to be in goal. As I took my seat at the back of the rollercoaster, I prayed we didn't suffer the fate as Aston Villa when they succumbed to an 8-0 defeat. My heart sank when I found out Juan Mata was fit and Petr Cech returned between the sticks. We would have to on the top of our game and I was aware Chelsea have a better away record under Benitez then they do at Stamford Bridge.

After 40 minutes of relatively enjoyable football, something miraculous happened. Jonas Gutierrez scored. That's a miracle. He even scored with his head, possibly the first header he's won in a black and white shirt! My eyes were surely deceiving me? It was fantastic wing work from Santon on the left for the goal and thankfully he's looked more composed in the last few games. He's been one of Newcastle's best players this season but has suffered recently. Hopefully, the assist will do him the world of good. His performances have not gone unnoticed and he's since been called up and played a full 90 minutes for Italy.

But Chelsea fought back with 2 wonder goals. Frank Lampard blasted in from 25 yards. Brilliant goal from the Chelsea talisman but I'm annoyed we sat back. Too many times we've invited pressure on ourselves and it nearly cost us. Minutes later Juan Mata put Chelsea into the lead with a delicious finessed finish past Tim Krul. We weren't outplayed, we were victims of 2 unbelievable goals. For the next 10-15 minutes we were mere passengers and didn't look at all interested until Papiss Cisse left John Terry on his backside and played in the impressive Gouffran. Gouffran raced through on goal and did well to power a shot goalwards. Cech saved but could only parry to the onrushing Sissoko who adopted a very good attacking position and was able to slot home for his debut goal. A very good finish from the frenchman but a poor mistake from the experienced Cech.

I was delighted with 2-2. We'd fought our way back into the game and were giving Chelsea a game which was refreshing to see. But my highlight was to come; Sissoko chased down a lost cause, kept the ball in play,  knocked the ball past Ashley Cole and out sprinted him. Utter madness but one of the best things I've ever seen at St James' Park. The crowd went nuts - it was evident the Toon army had taken the lad to their hearts already. Little did they know, he was to become an instant hero. For his next trick, he picked up the ball, spread it out wide to Santon who played it back to him. From 20 yards, Sissoko fired home. Pandemonium. Ecstasy. Joy. 3 words I haven't been able to say since Chelsea away last season. What a player, what a game. We'd nicked it at the death.

Where do we go from here? Upwards. Avoid any unnecessary bumps in the track and push on. With the return of Cabaye and the influx of new signings, we have a real chance of achieving top ten. And with the return of Hatem Ben Arfa, who knows what will happen?

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