Howe hypocritical in the extreme about home fan ‘pressure’ but Newcastle were cheated by PSG pen

Matt Stead
Newcastle players applaud the fans after drawing with Paris Saint-Germain
Newcastle were stitched up by a late penalty against PSG

Arsenal supporters would have enjoyed Newcastle being undone by a bad refereeing decision, and Eddie Howe blaming home fan “pressure”. But that was silly.


“The Champions League is not an obsession at all, it’s over,” said Nasser Al-Khelaifi, his voice presumably escalating like Ross Geller insisting he’s fine.

“We’re building a new identity, our own style, our own playing principles, an attacking game and a new culture. That’s what we want, and the results will follow. We want our players to enjoy playing, our staff to enjoy coaching and our fans to enjoy watching,” the Paris Saint-Germain president added earlier this season, displaying elite levels of Never Fancied Her Anyway self-deception.

A decade of soulless domestic domination with no tangible European reward will do that to you. Billions have been invested through transfer fees, wages, infrastructure and the rest but PSG remain a figure of Champions League fun – and not even the most best sportswashing project in a group they ought to be staring at elimination from.

For 97 minutes, they could not find a way through Newcastle. Nick Pope was sensational, producing stunning saves from Bradley Barcola and Kylian Mbappe. Tino Livramento was phenomenal, contributing to the opening goal while defending with a maturity and composure beyond his 21 years. Fabian Schar and Jamaal Lascelles were impeccable, blocking and clearing everything in sight. Kieran Trippier set the tone by standing his ground and tackling Mbappe cleanly in his own area in the 8th minute, then clashing with the forward at full-time.

Ally McCoist spent most of the game accurately assessing Lewis Miley as doing “outrageously well”; the teenager was the sort of brilliant that induces giddy laughter just thinking about it. Joelinton and Bruno Guimaraes were tirelessly superb. Even on one of his quieter evenings, Anthony Gordon was a remarkable nuisance. Alexander Isak had two chances presented to him all game and took one. The sublime Miguel Almiron was comfortably the best player on a gilded pitch.

But it was all for, if not quite nought, then certainly recompense which did not match the effort exerted. Outside of Arsenal supporters indulging in a spot of schadenfreude and those of a Sunderland persuasion, there was a rare rush of relative sympathy for the penalty decision which swung the momentum of this ludicrous Champions League group once more.

After 30 PSG shots, 14 of which were off-target with another 10 blocked, 11 coming from outside the area against an organised and exhausted Newcastle defence, the latest aimless Ousmane Dembele cross ricocheted off Livramento’s body and brushed the defender’s arm.

The appeals were as immediate as they were desperate, the best among them being Goncalo Ramos sprinting a solid 30 yards to receive a booking for protesting something that was always going to be checked.

But it never should have got as far as referee Szymon Marciniak, whose otherwise excellent officiating was undone by one risible call deep into stoppage-time. He presided over a replay, pointed to the spot and Mbappe did the rest.

Funny as it was to hear Eddie Howe, chief stirrer of the St James’ Park cauldron, talk post-match about how “the pressure put on the referee by the crowd was extreme,” it was still an absolute nonsense.

READ MORE‘Newcastle have been robbed’ – Jenas slams match officials as VAR controversy costs Eddie Howe’s side

PSG were rescued from their own profligacy. They were tactically outmatched by Newcastle and had no answer until the equation was solved for them. Luis Enrique’s side are second in the group when they should have headed into the final game in third, behind those very same Magpies who encapsulate “identity”, “style”, “principles, “culture” and other buzzwords far more effectively in a footballing sense.

Neither sportswashing project is at all palatable beyond the micro footballing landscape but at least Newcastle aren’t completely kidding themselves in the grand scheme this particular competition. “You don’t have to win the Champions League to be a successful football club,” said PSG’s chief revenue officer Marc Armstrong earlier this week. They needn’t worry about such hypotheticals on this basis; they certainly shouldn’t even be favourites to scrape through the group instead of the Magpies as Dortmund’s passengers.