Writer: Mehzeb Chowdhury
Date:Thursday March 5 2009
Newcastle United's first-half display against Manchester United was one of the best halves of football the Premier League has seen this season. Stand-in manager Chris Hughton had to amend the defensive tactics he had adopted in the Magpies' last two games, and sent his players all guns blazing.
The Toon took the game to United, and Geordies everywhere will agree that it was a refreshing change to see their side put up a stern challenge for a very strong Manchester United squad. The result may not have gone the way the Magpies would have wanted, but the grit and attacking intent shown by the players was wonderfully surprising.
Steven Taylor marked the evening with a thunderous tackle on Cristiano Ronaldo which saw the winger roll into the advertisement boards, and Obafemi Martins likened Nemanya Vidic to Al Pacino when he busted-open the defender's face with an elbow.
The feisty encounter also saw United respond with Wayne Rooney, and Patrice Evra also involved in tussles with Argentine winger Jonas Gutierrez.
Full-credit to Chris Hughton and Colin Calderwood for injecting new life into the boys, and for bringing back the fighting spirit into the Newcastle United squad.
After last night's encouraging display, Hughton is confident his team will stay-up in the Premiership.
Speaking to reporters post-match, Hughton stated his delight at Newcastle's performance: 'It's vital that we put on that type of performance right through to the end of the season.
'I was delighted with the performance. In the form that Manchester United are in, to be able in a lot of periods of the game to take the game to them, take the lead and go very close to getting a second speaks volumes for this group of players.'
Team selection was a big plus as well. Obafemi Martins and Peter Lovenkrands gave the side pace, intelligence, and movement. Abandoning Kinnear's long-ball tactics was a welcome change, which meant Shola Ameobi was benched, and the Toon army saved from another mediocre performance. Although, Andy Carroll would tell you that he was responsible for Ameobi losing his almost-guaranteed place in the starting line-up.
Date:Thursday March 5 2009
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