Was Brighton & Hove Albion beating Newcastle such an upset? Per the bookies, it was, with late Friday lines making the visiting Magpies a slight favorite over the eighth place team in England’s second tier. But Brighton beat the Magpies in this competition last year, and with Newcastle carrying nine losses in 11 into today’s game, it wasn’t difficult to see the Seagulls as more likely to win.
When Andrea Orlandi put Gus Poyet’s side up shortly before halftime, Brighton acted like a team expecting to win. Almost all goals are cause to celebrate, but there was no hint of shock in Albion’s reaction. Their celebration marked a fine goal more than a “surprise” of being up on Newcastle. Brighton would go on to win, 2-0.
While the Magpies started a weakened team, they still looked like the hope-derived team that’s fallen to the ede of the Premier League drop. Though recent performances against Manchester United, Arsenal, and Everton have shown the team capable, their current swoon isn’t exactly surprising. Carry an attitude of a team in need of wakeup or shakeup, the Magpies aren’t projecting themselves like a team that should be doing more. In front of an suspect defense, a midfield playing below last year’s level leaves Newcastle vulnerable.
And it doesn’t help when your captain compounds those problems with an act of absent-minded foolishness. That’s what Shola Ameobi provided in the 63rd minute when, already on a yellow card, he made late contact with a David López, the late challenge on the previously-in-possession player sending him to ground. Lee Probert showed the day’s captain a second yellow, leaving Newcastle to play the last half-hour with 10.
There’s a reasonable debate as to whether the punishment matched the crime, though Ameobi has little excuse. Coming at a point where Newcastle was under no threat, Ameobi shouldn’t have risked a second caution. That he was late and accidentally bring his foot down on top of López’s only underscored the inanity of his decision. No reasonable outcome from that challenge justified the risk of a second card.
I harp on this because it occurred to be that we aren’t critical enough with this type of offense. Leaving your team down a man isn’t a death sentence, but it’s obviously a huge disadvantage, especially when they’re chasing a goal. A player, particularly a forward, should do whatever it takes to avoid a sending off, yet the second caution happens with enough frequency that we’re not surprised when a player goes.
But if a player, through his lack of focus, debilitates his team’s chances to win, we should be hard on him. Much harder than we are. For as critical as we are of more difficult decisions, such an obvious mistakes deserve more attention.