A 4-2 loss on penalties in the EFL Cup for Newcastle United means another cup run has gone before it had even begun after the match finished 1-1 in normal time. Out at the first time of asking in a home game is as predictable as it was depressing.
Although Darlow did manage to save one spot kick in the shoot out, misses from Shelvey and Hayden would prove Newcastle’s undoing. United had already come from 1-0 down during the game after a deflected free kick from Maddison had given Leicester a first half lead before Muto equalised on 53 minutes.
Surprisingly perhaps then that this was not the pushover that many predicted before kick off given the changes my by Newcastle in particular.
Bruce plumped on 7 changes for United. Most notably the entire front three reportedly ruled out through ‘injury’. With Saint-Maximin certainly out for an undetermined period, you’d have to hope that the reported injuries to Almiron and Joelinton (who didn’t make the bench) are precautionary with what already seems like a huge game against Watford this weekend.
The strength of the Leicester squad evidenced through Rogers selections. Just two changes systematic of a team that doesn’t much fear the loss of a player or two given the riches elsewhere in their party. Only Praet and Evans dropping onto the bench with Morgan and Barnes coming in. Starts then for what is now a pretty impressive group including Perez, Tielemans, Maddison and Vardy
And that additional quality would ultimately prove telling in the shootout, with Vardy scoring the winning spot kick.
STARTING XI: Darlow, Krafth (Manquillo), Clark, Fernandez, Schar, Willems (Dummett, 78), Shelvey, M Longstaff, Hayden, Ritchie (Atsu, 44), Muto
The early signs weren’t good. Maddison finding the net after just 4 minutes, only to see his effort chalked off after he was to adjudged to have fouled his man in the build up.
Leicester looked sharp and with good pressing across the park. The away side clearly enjoying familiarity in not just the formation but the players selected to start with each other too.
To their credit, Newcastle certainly made it a contest. Just as in the Spurs game, playing with heart and desire. Indeed the home side would have the ball in the next themselves just before the half hour mark, this time Krafth seeing his strike ruled out for off-side.
On 34 minutes the visitors were ahead though. A free-kick just outside the area was stuck by Maddison for what should have been a comfortable save for Darlow, only for a huge deflection off the shoulder of Ritchie to change to the path of the ball straight into a now unguarded net. Unlucky in what was the first shot on target all game.
The reaction from Newcastle once more showed spirit. Some neat work resulting in another effort from Krafth, a first on target of the night, deflected wide and for a corner.
Leicester could have been reduced to 10 men just before half time. A particularly strong challenge from Hamza Choudhury cleaning out Ritchie, with the follow through arguably worth a straight red. The lack of VAR in this trophy something Steve Bruce must have been cursing. The result would mean Ritchie being immediately withdrawn from he action with an injury.
Another worry 5 minutes into the second half as Krafth had to also be withdrawn with what looked like a knock.
A breakthrough for Newcastle would come from the other flank. A long ball into the box by Schar was cut back across the box by Willems who was fouled in the process. With players and fans alike up in arms shouting for a what would have to have been a penalty, Muto stole in to tap home and make it 1-1 on the night.
Despite having much less of the ball on the night you’d have to say it was deserved on the balance of play.
The game was now stretched with Maddison proving a thorn in Newcastle’s side time and time again. At the other end Shelvey would see a great effort saved by Schmeichel.
There would be no breakthrough for either side in normal time however and the game would go to penalties without extra time. At this point most United fans would know what to expect. And, true to form, two missed spot kicks later another cup dream ends just like that.
A sparse crowd of only 22,727 (including a decent away contingent) is perhaps a sign that the penny is finally dropping with more than just a few fans. Even significantly reduced ticket prices not enough to even half fill the ground. Anyone would think the Geordie faithful weren’t too expectant of a strong team selection of cup run of any sort!
Another year comes and goes. Another chance of silverware gone without so much of a whimper.
Ah, the joy of football.