DORTMUND: Newcastle United and Eddie Howe, it seems, will have to produce the near impossible to ensure Champions League progress.
When Fabian Schar cracked home from 30 yards to send St. James’ Park into raptures, few would have thought Paris Saint-Germain away would potentially be the next time the Magpies hit the back of the net in the competition. But here we are, two games, no goals and zero points against Borussia Dortmund has seen Newcastle go from top of the group in early October to bottom of it a month later. Life is tough in the Champions League ‘group of death’.
When you’re eating at the top table of European football the finest of margins make the biggest of differences. And what Newcastle have not done well against Dortmund home and away is take key chances when they fall their way. That was definitely the case at St. James’ Park in the 1-0 reverse, and even more true at the Signal Iduna Park as a Joelinton miss was pounced upon by Dortmund, as Niclas Fullkrug and Julian Brandt scored decisive goals.
The result leaves the Magpies needing at least four points, depending on other results, from a trip to Paris at the end of the month, as well as a home clash with AC Milan.
“We are probably going to have to win our last two games,” said a frustrated Howe in the post-match press conference.
“I’m disappointed. I always am when two things come together, you don’t perform at your best and you lose. Those two things are a double whammy for me.
“I’m calm and collected and gathering my thoughts. I think with the season we are having we have to very quickly refocus.”
The Magpies, as Howe admitted, were far from their best on the night, much like the reverse fixture in Group F. And that’s the most frustrating thing, Premier League Newcastle United, and in the Carabao Cup, are not the same team, they play with a different energy and intensity to Champions League United.
Howe continued: “The intensity and quality of our usual game was missing. In saying that, we still had our moments and Joelinton’s [missed] header is the key moment in the game from our perspective.”
Injuries have, of course, played their part with Callum Wilson adding to that list ahead of Bournemouth in the top flight at the weekend.
“I think we’ve lost the ability to make certain decisions,” said Howe of his selection headaches, which has seen him robbed of 12 first-team players prior to Wilson’s issue.
“In a sense, I’m being forced to make certain decisions and pick certain teams.
“Looking at Anthony Gordon, he played for 90 minutes against Arsenal and gave absolutely everything physically, and I think the turnaround for him was just too quick. I didn’t think he could start the match, so we had to use him as an impact player.
“In a different set of circumstances, you’d probably have liked to have played a different type of winger, but I’m not going to sit here and make excuses, that’s what we have.”