Norwich 3-2 Newcastle United
A stoppage time goal from Martin Olsson gave Norwich revenge for their 6-2 drubbing earlier in the season in the most cruel of circumstances for Rafa and his beleaguered troops.
In a game that was rightly billed as a relegation six pointer, and one that neither side could afford to lose, it was not just the loss but the manner of the defeat which could well put paid to any chance of the Mags staying up this season. It certainly feels that way as the dust settles.
Newcastle had started the game brightly, well for the opening 10 minutes at least, dominating possession with almost two thirds of the ball. The early onslaught would not bring the goal Newcastle so desperately needed and as the half wore on it was the hosts who would create chance after chance and it seemed only a matter of time before they would take the lead and but for Karl Darlow between the sticks Norwich could have been out of sight by the break.
STARTING XI: Darlow, Janmaat, Mbemba, Taylor, Anita (Mitrovic), Shelvey, Sissoko, Tiote (Perez), Townsend, Wijnaldum, Cisse
Rafa had opted for Cisse up front on his own for this one, somewhat of a surprise with Mitrovic doing so well last time out. Whilst 3rd choice Darlow would be called on as our last fit senior keeper and Anita would play left back with 3 normal left backs injured and Colback who would normally play there serving the first of a two game ban.
Just when it seemed that Newcastle would hold on until the much needed half time team talk - disaster. Timm Klose found the top corner with a fine header on 47 minutes. Only one minute of injury time had been singled but, as they do, the referee allowed time for a free kick and the resultant header would put the hosts ahead with the last touch of the half.
In the second half Rafa would make an early change with Tiote off replaced by Perez. The change would also see a change in pattern of the game and Newcastle now pushed forward looking the goal that would bring them level.
As the clock ticked on though it was the introduction of Mitrovic that would make the difference and on 71 mixtures the Serb would bring Newcastle level with a great header that would deflect over the Norwich keeper.
The lead would only last for 3 minutes however as Bezua’s outstanding finish put the hosts back in front.
Back came The Mags once more and when Gary O’Neil was adjudged to have handled the ball on the box on 86 minutes up would step Mitrovic again to beat the Ruddy who guessed the right way but could not keep out the spot kick.
That ‘should’ have been that. But, just as in the first half, Newcastle failed to hold on in injury time. And after seeing a Cisse header inexplicably saved by Ruddy as the clock ticked to 90 minutes it was Norwich once more who would be celebrating.
A scramble and a half clearance in the Newcastle area would see Martin Olsson make a run from the back to side foot past everyone and into the bottom right corner.
This time there was no coming back.
For Rafa another cruel defeat and now one point in three games with a tough trip to Southampton next on the cards.
For Newcastle and their long suffering fans, it is now 6 points from safety with only 7 games left. All but the faintest hope has now gone.