Sharpshooter Dwight Gayle completed a memorable night and hat-trick at St. James’ Park on Wednesday night in the 96th minute against Norwich making it 4-3 & reminding everybody why favourites Newcastle will go up.
Yet it could easily have been a different story, one similar to the frustrating draw against Aston Villa, after a dominant Newcastle side failed to put away their chances and the game in the opening half an hour.
Paul Dummett fizzed in three excellent crosses from the left yet a diminutive forward line of Gayle and Matt Ritchie failed to score until the two combined on the deck in the 24th minute.
Yet exactly how slender a one goal lead is in the frenetic, topsy-turvy Championship was shown beyond doubt when Norwich turned the game on its head with three goals in 30 minutes.
The answer on Wednesday night was – and going forward – is striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.
When monster Mitrovic is on the pitch, all 6ft 2in of him, Newcastle are a different prospect and offer a completely different threat with his aerial prowess and overall physical strength.
Many substitute strikers are told to “Go on and drop hand grenades” yet Mitrovic – after being told to keep the pin in to avoid getting sent off – causes that much havoc he’s the equivalent of pressing the nuclear button.
The Serbian aggressively harries and attacks every ball, occupying the attention of defenders, allowing front men like Gayle and Yoan Gouffran the space and time to get their shots and headers off. Indeed, Gayle said he feared injury after being manhandled by Mitrovic when they were celebrating the team’s 4th goal and the game’s 7th, telling The Daily Telegraph:
“He shook my head, suffocated me and headbutted me,” joked Gayle, when asked about being grabbed in a headlock by Mitrovic and slammed on the floor.
“It was like being whip-lashed. I think he tried to injure me. Nah, he’s a great lad and as I said, we have great team spirit. He was just as excited as we all were. Those were unbelievable scenes at the end.”
Yet he can play, too, and Mitrovic’s hold-up play is superb – both of Newcastle’s injury-time goals resulted from the big striker latching onto or heading down JonJo Shelvey’s ping-point passes.
His only start for Newcastle in The Championship was at Loftus Road and, predictably, Newcastle blew Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s men away as Newcastle’s talent was able to thrive behind the presence of Mitrovic.
Then Mitrovic was dropped against Wolves at home, Newcastle were toothless and lacked presence in attack and played into the Molineux outfit’s hands as Gayle struggled to impose himself on a tough and tall defence as The Magpies slumped to a 0-2 reverse after six wins on the spin.
It was a different story three days later when Daryl Murphy – even bigger than Mitro at 6ft 3in – played against Wolves in The League Cup and showed again the positive effect of having a target man up front to aim at.
Benitez’s preferred formation is 4-3-2-1 yet while such tactics may work wonders in The Champions League, its not needed in The Championship where Newcastle could be blowing most teams away.
Especially obvious after BigSamGate, Newcastle are a Premier League side in the wrong division and have the talent and firepower to flex their muscles yet its something they have to do literally in order to thrive as they can.
Mitrovic was targetted by the referees in last season’s Premier League, whose officials seemed to be keen to relegate Newcastle. He was hauled down by a rugby tackle by Jonny Evans at West Brom, had a perfectly good second goal disallowed at The Etihad having notched one and Leicester’s Robert Huth should have been dismissed at St. James’ Park for an action the Serbian would have certainly been sent off for had it happened the other way around.
Gayle should be scoring in every game yet he needs help and Mitrovic’s presence providing the ball as well as more space and freedom occupying defenders is the key.
Newcastle’s no. 9 has the The Championship’s best goal-per-minute ratio at a goal every 99 minutes and has scored 7 in total including this beauty:
Mo Diame has been underwhelming for the majority of the season so far in a Newcastle shirt – the Bristol City away assist and Brighton home game aside – and needs a rest so could be the next to be rotated.
The Outlaw Aleksander Mitrovic up front alongside The Sharpshooter Dwight Gayle means there’ll be more time spent in Magpies’ seventh heaven a la Wednesday night than the purgatory of Aston Villa or Wolves at home.
Rock bottom Rotherham are up next and they should brace themsleves to face Newcastle’s real wrath.
Juventus Fans Arrested After Clash with Police
Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final clash between Juventus and Ajax has already been marred by violence and controversy, before the teams even took to the pitch.
According to Ansa, citing a report from De Telegraaf, dozens of fans were reportedly arrested in Amsterdam in the hours leading up to the game.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini (h/t Football Italia) took to Facebook live video to state that “around 120” fans had been arrested.
Per the report from De Telegraaf, fans near the Johan Cruyff Arena were “in possession of knives, clubs, pepper spray and flares.” Also, dozens of Ajax supporters were reported to have clashed with riot police in separate incidents outside the stadium and were eventually dispersed with the use of tear gas and water cannons.
The Mirror posted the following images on their Twitter page:
Man City forward Raheem Sterling Looking to Combat Racism on the Pitch
Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, who spoke out last month after being subjected to taunts during England’s game in Montenegro, is looking to take his fight against racism to the pitch, saying he would rather stay on the field than let racism force him to walk off of the pitch during a match.
Sterling’s manager Pep Guardiola, stated that he would support players walking off in protest if it happened again, in a strong statement that racism is simply not acceptable.
“I think everyone are entitled to their own opinions. My mum has taught me to be comfortable in my own skin and I am,” Sterling said, according to the Manchester Evening News.
“I wouldn’t personally agree with [walking off], to win the game would hurt them even more they’re only trying to get you down. If you walk off they win, to score or win would be better.
“Everyone’s different. Everyone has their own opinion, how they deal with things emotionally and you have to support everyone.”
Sterling opened up about the racism he has faced in his life, discussing when he first expereinced racism when he moved from North London up to the north-west back in 2010.
“I don’t think trying to make a difference or making a difference, it’s about speaking what you experience. Some people might shy away from it, if more players speak up that might be better.
“It’s offensive but growing up my mum always told me I’m a wonderful black child and I know this. When I hear it, it’s nothing new. I’m happy with it. I’m confident, I’m black and I’m proud. Some people can’t take it but my mum has always told me to love who I am.
“The first time I experienced racism is when I went up north to Liverpool – in London in schools and on a day-to-day basis you’re surrounded by a diverse community. Only a few occasions growing up in the academy in Liverpool, and then mainly in the last couple of years of being a professional.”
Birmingham City Fan Jailed for 14 Days for Punching Aston Villa Player
27-year old Paul Mitchel, a Birmingham City fan has been jailed for 14 days after he plead guilt to assaulting Aston Villa midfielder Jack Graelish during the derby on Sunday.
Mitchell rushed the pitch and took a swing at Graelish when the player’s back was turned at Birmingham City’s St. Andrew’s stadium during the Championship match on Sunday.
Mitchell admitted to invading the pitch and has been officially banned from attending any football match in the U.K. for up to 10 years, and was also ordered to pay £350 in total fines.
Graelish made a statement in which he described how he was “shocked and scared” by the attack.
“I cannot help but feel how lucky I was in this incident,” he said (h/t ESPN). “It could have been so much worse had the supporter had some sort of weapon.”
“He cannot explain what came over himself yesterday morning,” Mitchell’s lawyer, Vaughn Whistance, said on Monday.
“His initial foolish intention was to go onto the pitch to whip up the crowd. He is certainly remorseful today. He is a man with a partner, they have a 2-year-old together and they’re expecting their second child.”
“This weekend a line has been crossed in terms of fan behaviour,” said a spokesperson for the FA.
“On Sunday we saw two separate incidents, at Birmingham City and Arsenal, of individuals entering the field of play and assaulting players.
“Not only is it an offence to enter the pitch, which could result in a club ban and criminal charges for the individual, but it also puts the safety of the players at risk.
“This is entirely unacceptable and we strongly condemn both incidents.
“We will be working with the clubs, the leagues and the police to discuss what collectively needs to be done to protect players and officials on the pitch.
“In addition, we have written to both Birmingham City and Arsenal to seek their observations to examine the security measures they had in place.”
Birmingham City apologized to Grealish and Aston Villa and banned Mitchell for life.
“Birmingham City Football Club would like to apologise to Jack Grealish and Aston Villa Football Club for an incident in Sunday afternoon’s derby match,” a club statement said.
“We deplore the behaviour of the individual who committed this act and rest assured he will be banned from St. Andrew’s for life. The club will also support any further punishment this individual may face in the eyes of the law.
“The club will be working with the relevant authorities to investigate all the circumstances and we will be reviewing our stadium safety procedures.
“What happened has no place in football or society. Jack is a Birmingham lad and regardless of club allegiance should not have been subjected to this — there are no excuses.
“Again, we apologise to Jack and all at Aston Villa Football Club.”
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