Newcastle United’s Championship-title campaign stuttered in a dreadful first half against Bristol City on Saturday as Rafa Benitez paid the price of not selecting his best available team ahead of a busy week away from home.
With Dwight Gayle injured, Newcastle turned once again to their no. 45 Aleksandar Mitrovic yet failed to provide him with the support he needs up front – Mo Diame – and from wide areas, namely crosses into the box:
Newcastle were struggling against Aston Villa until Mitrovic’s arrival and the big Serbian immediately dovetailed with Mo Diame as they have all season forcing corner after corner and eventually the victory from two set-pieces.
In big wins against Preston North End at home – 6-0 in the EFL Cup – and more recently against Derby at home and Wolves away in crucial 1-0 victories -the pairing of Mitrovic and Diame has proved a fruitful one, something both players recognise, Diame saying of Mitrovic:
“He is a warrior.
“I have watched him train and he’s a real fighter.
“He’s a great player, he will help us a lot.
“The Championship is tough and hard and we need characters like Mitro.”
Height, presence, physical work all over the back four from both men put paid to a Villa side that had easily dealt with the under-strength Gayle and are the exact qualities needed by Newcastle in their most pivotal week in The Championship to date. Diame was also brilliant against Brighton at home helping Newcastle cruise in the end to a 2-0 win that demonstrated who the best side in the EFL really are.
Yet also pivotal in the game was the sending off of Brighton’s Sam Baldock, the first time Newcastle United had played against 10 men for over 100 games.
Three consecutive away games against top of the table Brighton, 3rd-placed Huddersfield and 5th-placed Reading mean Newcastle must summon their most imperious away form to establish their rightful place at the top of the table.
Of course, without such refereeing farces as Fulham & Notts Forest away, Newcastle United would already be five points clear at the top of The Championship so the club must be on their guard against dodgy officiating.
As The Chronicle revealed last week, its 30 games now since Newcastle received a penalty in The Championship and have only had 3 awarded despite being the division’s most attacking team while Brighton have been awarded 9 and Reading 11.
Its already ludicrous that Newcastle are playing away three times in a week despite offering to play a different date for the trip to Brighton and clash at the Amex Stadium, meaning 9000 loyal Geordie fans will be travelling 1500 miles to fill their section of three different stadiums to cheer on their heroes.
And to learn that the referee for the clash is Bobby Madley, who is not only a Huddersfield fan with a direct vested interest in the match for his own club loyalties yet was villain of the Geordie peace in last season’s Wear-Tyne derby, wrongly sending off Fabricio Coloccini after missing this blatant penalty on Gini Wijnaldum.
Ultimately, the decision to send then-Captain Coloccini off was rescinded yet it cost Newcastle United their Premier League status and £100m lost in television revenue in the long-run.
In fact as the table above shows, Newcastle were on the receiving end of the most wrong decisions by officials in The Premier League and would have finished 14th on a level playing-field harming both the club’s finances, global reputation and also that of some of its players.
Serbian international Aleksandar Mitrovic, for example, has acknowledged his part in Newcastle’s relegation last season, telling The Chronicle:
“I stayed here because I wanted to get the team back to the Premier League.
“I was part of the team that were relegated and I feel responsible. I want to try to help the team to get back.
“We’re on a good run now, though, and hopefully at the end of the season we’ll be back.”
yet if goals like this he scored against top level opposition away from home and were wrongly denied had counted – the following strike would have made it 2-0 at The Etihad, for example, doubling his tally on the day – Newcastle would have stayed up.
Rafa Benitez has called on the referees for extra protection for Mitrovic yet the best protection he can get on the pitch is having a big foil like Mo Diame up with him alongside him in the Newcastle attack.
Add service in the form of real aerial crosses and surround him with players feeding off the balls he wins will restore Newcastle’s position at the top of The Championship.
Like Premier League referee Bobby Madley’s inexplicable dropping down a division to referee what could prove the Championship trophy-deciding tie, with any justice, Newcastle United’s stay in The Championship will prove only a very short one.
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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