Marco Silva’s Fulham exhibited some of the sauciest football we have ever seen in our last two meetings and one expected defeat against Newcastle United will not erase that. Eddie Howe’s squad has been ravaged by injuries; they had key squad members in the pits, but they weren’t to be taken lightly. There’s never a good time to face them at their place, even in depletion, so while we’ll unpack Saturday’s happenings, we shouldn’t let this result spoil a festive season which is going to be amazing.
We’ve a Carabao Cup quarter final at Goodison Park to attend; it’s going to be a lip-smacking spectacle and then, we’ve Burnley on the 23rd, an early Christmas treat that’ll surely have us rockin’ around the Cottage. A Boxing Day jolly-up in Bournemouth? Bloody go on then, son. This article is going to outline where we (and others) went badly wrong but am I going to sob into my mince pie? To heck with that!
Reality check: we’re 11th in the standings with 21 points on the board and we’ve encountered Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Brighton and Hove Albion, Aston Villa, Liverpool and now Newcastle on the road and we’re still standing. Dust off the ultra-thick jumpers, smash a bottle of port down your throat because it’s being a flirtatious little shit, just do everything that’s necessary over the next week because when you put things in perspective, everything is fine and dandy in SW6 and that is all we’d wished for this time last year.
Futile defiance in flashes
Our first-half efforts were in vain; we gave as good as we got and it eventually stood for nothing but I suppose there are a few factors that can be looked upon in a positive light, albeit a dimmed one. We combined excellently on the break with Tom Cairney and Alex Iwobi carrying possession with purpose, we fashioned decent scoring opportunities through Harry Wilson on the right but without a leading striker to pick out, our threats were futile. The odds were stacked up against us, although Toon didn’t have it all there own way for the game’s entirety, not in football terms, anyway.
As the game wore on we had to surrender possession to maintain our shape and one player that contributed superbly to our defensive work was Andreas Pereira. He didn’t shrink when the ball had to be won and his exploits epitomised the tremendous team spirit on show before half-time. We were fluent in flashes, defiant as Newcastle’s optimism increased, we survived a frantic first half with our dignity intact and I know I’m reaching here, but this defeat isn’t a major cause for concern because really, truthfully, we could all see it coming once the hosts held the advantage. Lick them wounds, draw a deep breath and punt this loss into the past.
Raul’s red rear-end
I don’t think there’s ever been a red card quite like Raul Jimenez’s arse-to-face poleaxe. Evidently, Jimenez wanted instant revenge for being elbowed by Jamaal Lascelles and he certainly left his mark, or skids, on Sean Longstaff’s kisser. I can’t quite decipher whether it was an act of sheer stupidity or a genuine mistake, either way, Raul divebombed into his victim with force, he tried to pull out mid-air but it was far too late for abortive manoeuvrers and once the footage had been slowed down, the Mexican’s collision with Longstaff appeared to be so much worse than what it actually was.
For what it’s worth, not that isn’t going to sit well with everyone, for me, that isn’t a dismissal and if the jerseys were swapped, it wouldn’t have even been acknowledged as foul play or reckless misconduct. I can appreciate that Jimenez’s head loss wasn’t called for but you cannot tell me that it was completely intentional, with malice and disregard, I honestly believe he misread the situation entirely but what do I know? I’m not a qualified, paid match official *cough*.
As it happened, I stand by the opinion that Raul was attempting to charge down a long ball that never materialised, and the game is played at such a pace that momentum can and will carry a player further than they’d have bargained for. That’s how I saw it, I’m not condoning Jimenez’s sudden surge of blood but it was definitely spin doctored by Stockley Park and as we’ll debate shortly, Sam Barrott was automatically obliged to swap yellow for red because nowadays, on-field referees cannot think for themselves.
Inevitable defensive submission
10 men at St. James’ Park, against a Toon team that had a point to prove after being ejected from the Champions League, Fulham’s fate was sealed in the 21st minute and who could blame them, really. There’s only so much pressure and strain a side can take until they can’t hold on any longer and the Whites’ defensive submission was inevitable. Resistance was at breaking point after the interval, they’d fought tirelessly in the first 45 to stave off Newcastle’s advances but as the hosts upped the intensity, buoyed on by 50,000 lager bellies, we hadn’t a single hope or prayer.
We’d been resolute in our last two outings, in fairness. We’d barely been troubled by Nottingham Forest or West Ham but being a man down away from home, our initial game plan was rubbished early on and we had to adopt a low block, we had no other alternative and it was a recipe for distress. With an extra body up top, we would’ve been better balanced but as we couldn’t lump it up field to an attacker capable of holding it up, our progressive relevance lessened and we could do nothing more than camp in our own half as the Magpies gained territory and impetus.
Newcastle’s tails were up, with everyone behind the ball we banked ourselves against their relentless press but their first of the afternoon wasn’t pretty from a defensive perspective, at all. Bruno Guimarães bundled through bodies, nobody stuck a firm challenge in and it fell to the feet of a 17-year-old Lewis Miley, who became Newcastle’s youngest PL goal scorer since James Milner in 2004. Of course that was always going to be the case.
Their second was a comical mix-up, the miscommunication between Bernd Leno and Antonee Robinson enabled the ball to trickle towards a vacant net and Miguel Almiron did the honours from yards out. We were rattled, we couldn’t regroup amid the Magpies’ insistence to inflict yet more pain and their third – while there was absolutely no way we were going to claw ourselves back into things – was inescapable. Nobody’s stopping Dan Burn at the back stick, not even Tosin would, and though Leno made a great save at first, we were powerless to prevent it from being shunted in.
Berating Barrott’s bias
In his post-match autopsy, Silva summed up Barrott’s afternoon and in no uncertain terms, the gaffer’s words were scathingly accurate. If Newcastle players dropped like flies, Fulham culprits were carded. If our lads were cynically scythed down, Barrott didn’t bat an eyelid. At stadiums such as St. James’, officials have to be strong-willed in their decision making, they have to block out the growl of obese, topless Geordies and they have to uphold a level playing field. That wasn’t the reality on Saturday afternoon because the game was slanted hugely in the Magpies’ favour.
The Whites received two yellows and a red. It wasn’t the Battle of the Somme but there were strong, professional fouls flying in from all angles and yet, the hosts weren’t disciplined or reprimanded, they were given free reign and yet again, we’re questioning the validity of Premier League officials. Barrott was given a heft backhander by the PIF and VAR was held at gunpoint hired hands. That’s the only reasonable explanation for the flagrantly biased narrative the refs followed so dedicatedly.
Bobby De Cordova-Reid was cautioned simply because his opponent couldn’t get the better of him on the corner flag, you’ve central defenders flinging arms at skulls but protecting the penalty area with perfectly reasonable contact? Oh no, the PGMOL simply will not stand for it, unless you’ve vaults upon vaults of blood money at the ready and a reputation for killing people off in the dead of night. I’ll quit while I’m ahead. Marco’s statement will probably get him into bother but actually, he wasn’t lying. Why should managers save face for the ref’s sake? Poor, disingenuous officiating is seldom investigated and while the powers that be endorse respect, they’re hardly worthy of it and they probably never will be.