A poor performance against fellow promoted side Brighton & Hove Albion saw Newcastle lose their three game winning streak.
Apparently the Magpies just can’t beat anyone playing in blue this season. Tottenham wore blue on the first day, then came Huddersfield and now Brighton.
If it wasn’t a case that we’d lost once more to our fellow newly promoted teams – teams we realistically needed to be beating – then it’d almost be funny. At least, until the scarily good Manchester City come knocking.
Either way, the game against Brighton was just shambolic from a Newcastle perspective. We seemed to have lost all defensive capabilities.
Brighton are a team that plays fast-paced attacking football. They rely on width and their wide playmakers, Anthony Knockaert especially.
Yet, we seemed to be more than willing to allow for them to have acres of space on the wings and just let the ball be pinged about from side to side with reckless abandon. There seemed to be little care, and a distinct lack of the usual rigid tactical style of Benitez.
Newcastle just looked all over the place.
We had one good chance in the first half, and it came at the very beginning.
Mikel Merino, who has been so beneficial to the team this season so far, struck a good volley, which he drilled into the ground from an out-swinging corner by Matt Ritchie, and forced an impressive save from Mat Ryan.
The only other chances to note for Newcastle came from Joselu, who once again seemed not to understand the scoring part of being a goalscorer, and missed two more easy chances, and Jonjo Shelvey who decided to be incredibly cheeky from a corner and struck the post with a wickedly curling effort.
Brighton’s goal, which had looked like arriving pretty much since the start of the game, came in the 51st minute through Israeli striker Tomer Hemed.
There were arguments that Chancel Mbemba was illegally blocked off in the buildup as the set piece came in – and it certainly looked that way – but nobody really protested and even if it had been pulled back, Brighton would have no doubt still scored later.
Either way, play was allowed to continue, the ball was headed back into the six-yard box from further back and Tomer Hemed, who was inexplicably allowed to be in front of his marker, simply acrobatically swung at it and diverted the ball into the net via a shin.
It wasn’t a pretty goal, but they all count.
Beyond that, the game didn’t offer too much more. Newcastle continued to be shambolic, while Brighton attacked and attacked but didn’t produce too much end product – it being clear why it took them so long to score a Premier League goal.
They produced such great buildup play but little on the end of it. Tomer Hemed always looked a few steps off the pace.
Then came a moment of controversy in the last few minutes of the game, as Yedlin slid in to win back the ball and did so, coming to a stop directly in front of the Brighton striker. Hemed appeared to look down at Yedlin, then step directly onto his leg – a stamp, by the laws of the game.
Hemed has since been charged and given a three match ban, despite Brighton’s claims it was ‘accidental’, though there was an issue about the coverage of the incident that truly annoyed me.
It was the same issue as was seen with Harry Kane’s scissor tackle on Lejeune in the first game of the season. Because Tomer Hemed doesn’t have that pre-standing reputation the stamp was given little post-match coverage, with some pundits quick to defend him as accidental, even if it appeared in the video footage that he stopped and therefore knew where Yedlin was, before stepping forward onto him.
I simply wonder just how much coverage the same incident would have gotten, and how much greater condemnation, if the player stamping had been in black and white – either wearing number 45 or having a rather bald head.
I don’t doubt had it been Mitrovic or Shelvey then there wouldn’t have even been the consideration that it could have been accidental, let alone the outright defence of the player.
Either way, justice has since been done and Newcastle fans have to just hope that this performance was a little bump in the road and not enough to entirely derail the progress that had been made recently.