In another feisty Tyne Wear derby at the Stadium of Light, this time we managed to see out our opening goal without reply through to the final whistle. Even though there was occasionally some good football being played, which included a well executed free kick by Ryan Taylor on the 62nd minute that settled the match, the game will probably be remembered for the amount of bad tackles and the bad refereeing that accompanied the game rather than the football that was on offer.
As commented in my preview, we lined up with an extra man in midfield – Obertan starting in place of Demba Ba. Instead of playing behind Ameobi, Obertan started on the right, giving the option of a quick outlet against their weakest link in their defence, Kieran Richardson.
Coloccini had a fantastic game and showed the reason why he was elected as club captain. Not the most vocal on the pitch, however, he leads by example and has been our best player in our last two matches. Coloccini won 64% of his 50/50 ground duels and won more aerial duels (3 out of 4) than any other defender. Also, the stats above showed that Ryan Taylor had another effective game in his make-shift left back position, distributing the ball well and effective in his defensive duties. Sunderland tried to focus their attack down this side – making 73 passes to the right wing and only 33 passes to the left wing. Although this game plan was much in vain, as a combination of Sessegnon’s poor crossing and lack of aerial strength of Sunderland’s frontline failed to threaten Tim Krul’s goal. Overall, Sunderland offered little in front of goal, only 3 of their 12 shots taken were on target compared to Newcastle’s 6 shots on target from 11 taken.
Another area of concern for Steve Bruce was the amount of fouls conceded. Although it is a tense derby, you need players to be able to keep their head in the heat of the battle and unfortunately their team and in particular, Lee Cattermole were incapable of doing this. In total, Sunderland conceded 17 fouls compared to Newcastle’s 7. Cattermole being their worst culprit; committing nearly a quarter of their fouls (4) and one of his ill-timed fouls led to Ryan Taylor’s winning goal. With the quality of free kick takers in Cabaye, Barton and Taylor – it was always dangerous to concede free kicks within shooting distance.
A positive note for Newcastle is the strength of our middle three. Barton, Tiote and Cabaye had a good game – all three winning the majority of their tackles and 50/50 ground duels. Tiote making seven interceptions (two crucially in the box) and he avoided a booking – Unbelievable! One thing that I have noticed is that Tiote has been caught on the ball more times than normal and his passes have been more wayward this season. Last season, Tiote’s passing rate was an overall 87% – so far this season, he’s averaged 64%. Last year’s Arsenal fixture at SJP was 94% and Sunderland at home was 90% (he was unavailable for the Stadium of Light fixture).
It’s a great four points from six after a difficult start to the season. Defensively, we look to be playing well with Coloccini and Taylor forming a formidable partnership. Edging closer to a deal with Erik Pieters to replace Jose Enrique. Our midfield is taking shape too and fingers crossed, Pardew can bring in Sochaux striker Modibo Maiga to give us some extra firepower up front.