Football is a strange game, in which teams can spend long periods not deserving anything from a match and feel frustrated at failing to win it in the end. There is no better example of this than on Saturday, when Newcastle United left Cardiff City cursing a missed opportunity. After 90 minutes of misplaced passes and a worrying lack of energy, the win was put on a plate when a last minute penalty was awarded. Nobody summed up how poor the Magpies were more than Kenedy, so it was fitting that he missed from the spot.
Neil Warnock may not like it, but the biggest lesson that can be taken from the game is arguably that Cardiff are already doomed to relegation. Of course, the season is long and anybody can improve, but the Blubirds’ failure to register. more than one shot on target was majorly concerning. Newcastle were far too lethargic in their play and were there for the taking, but the only man looking to make anything happen was Josh Murphy, who tormented Javier Manquillo in the first half and drew a foul that resulted in a red card for substitute Isaac Hayden in the second. The lack of depth at fullback, in the absence of the injured DeAndre Yedlin, was laid bare, but as poor as Rafa Benitez’s side were, they did not deserve to lose the game, or rather Cardiff did not deserve to win it. It is unlikely they will have many better chances to take three points than that, and they were not up to task.
Jamaal Lascelles was as impressive as ever in defence and Jonjo Shelvey appeared in the mood, too. Usually, when they are on song, Newcastle click as a team, but something just wasn’t right. Kenedy, as has already been said, was the worst culprit; after a first half in which he failed to make a successful pass and should have been sent off for a kick out at an opponent, he was clearly set on making up for his mistakes, first with a free kick, which he hit straight at the wall, and later with the penalty, that just happened to be the last kick of the game.
The trepidation with which he approached the crucial moment was obvious; he had failed to clear his head and as a result allowed Neil Etheridge, the Cardiff goalkeeper, to read exactly where he was going to strike the ball. It was his second spot-kick save in as many weeks, but he hardly had to work for it; Newcastle fans, and pretty much anybody who has watched the incident, were left wondering why the Brazilian was allowed to step up when Shelvey would have been the obvious option at that moment In time.
Benitez had the answer, explaining that Kenedy is second in line to Matt Ritchie on the list of penalty takers. Ritchie was substituted for the second game running, and has since confirmed he would have stepped up had he been on the pitch, but the lack of flexibility cost Newcastle. It was clear that Kenedy‘s head was not in the right place to score; Craig Bellamy, the former Newcastle and Cardiff striker, who also played under Benitez at Liverpool, was working as a pundit on the game and he claimed the Spaniard once fined him for jumping the penalty queue. Perhaps there should be more scope for players to take responsibility on the pitch if the situation requires.
Luckily for Newcastle, it was confirmed on Monday that Kenedy will not face retrospective action for his kick out at Victor Camarasa, despite it looking like Craig Pawson had missed a clear red card offence. A free kick was given just after the incident, and if the referee saw it, the FA is powerless to intervene. But Hayden will miss out against Chelsea, while Manquillo may be injured after being forced off at half time.
Despite not looking like winning the game up until the very last kick, Newcastle missed a great opportunity to take the pressure off ahead of some huge games over the next few weeks. Following the meeting with Chelsea at St James’ Park, they face champions Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, which is always a daunting prospect, before welcoming Arsenal to Tyneside. Home form will be crucial, and after beating both London clubs at their own stadium last season, Newcastle should be confident, but having failed to win in South Wales, losing those games could be consequential, even at this early stage of the campaign.
Rafa Benitez will remain as calm as ever, and urge everyone to move on as quickly as possible. Kenedy will have a long couple of weeks ahead of him as he looks to put a terrible afternoon behind him, though.
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