Newcastle denied by shocking call while Jeremy Doku and Julian Alvarez underline Man City importance – Champions League hits and misses

A dubious penalty denies Newcastle after impressive performance in Paris; Jeremy Doku and Julian Alvarez underline their importance to Pep Guardiola in Man City’s comeback win over RB Leipzig; Celtic once again come up short in the Champions League

Shocking penalty call denies Newcastle

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Tim Sherwood and the Soccer Special panel are incensed as PSG are awarded a late penalty for an apparent handball from Tino Livramento

Paris Saint-Germain scored with their 30th shot of the game and a number of those were clear opportunities so Newcastle could well have been punished earlier than they were. But it was the manner of the equaliser, a gift from the officials, that will so grate.

Kylian Mbappe did not breach the Newcastle back line with a bit of brilliance. He was handed the ball and able to convert from the penalty spot not because of a Newcastle error either. Just a desperately cruel penalty call that required a VAR review to make it happen.

  • PSG 1-1 Newcastle: Match report and reaction
  • How the teams lined up | Match stats

The decision to award a spot-kick for the ball striking Tino Livramento’s arm after bouncing off his chest would have been inexplicable regardless – nothing was unnatural about his body shape. It is called running. But it was even stranger given earlier events.

There had already been a VAR check when the ball hit the arm of Lewis Miley having bounced off another body part. On that occasion, the referee was not asked to view the monitor. It was no penalty either but the reaction time for Livramento was even less.

“It is a disgusting decision,” said Tim Sherwood, watching the game for Sky Sports. “It is ridiculous. It is impossible.” Eddie Howe appeared bereft afterwards. So close and denied not by the genius of Mbappe but by a genuinely bizarre decision.
Adam Bate

Alvarez and Doku becoming indispensable for Pep

Image: Julian ALvarez and Jermey Doku have become vital for Man City this season

Phil Foden said he’d never seen Man City play as bad as they did in the first half against RB Leipzig. There will certainly be some alarm bells ringing for Pep Guardiola after back-to-back Premier League draws despite the comeback.

There was an uncharacteristic sloppiness at the back for City with Ruben Dias and Manuel Akanji making schoolboy errors for Lois Openda’s two first-half goals. The problems weren’t limited to individual mistakes either.

Guardiola said his side played with an anxiousness before the break. They lost control of the game with Jack Grealish and Rodri, two of City’s key orchestrators, off the pace. Everyone was guilty of playing badly in the first half.

  • Report: Man City 3-2 RB Leipzig
  • How the teams lined up | Match stats

Perhaps the talk of a treble hangover has some legs. But it is important to note that there was a drastic change with the introduction of two fresh faces after the break.

Jeremy Doku and Julian Alvarez, who masterminded City’s comeback off the bench at Leipzig in the reverse fixture, pulled off their party trick again. Tuesday night’s turnaround underlined their growing importance.

Doku changed the rhythm, according to Guardiola, while Alvarez’s introduction to the pockets unlocked space for Foden, who had struggled until that point. Those two produced the decisive blows.

Alvarez has deputised so well for Kevin De Bruyne it has been possible at times to forget his absence. Doku, meanwhile, has changed the way City play the game. He is surely ahead of Grealish in the pecking order now. They are becoming indispensable.
Zinny Boswell

Can Celtic find a way to compete in Europe?

Image: Celtic have 15 games without a win in the Champions League

Celtic are once again left to reflect on a disappointing Champions League campaign. One that was plagued by red cards and more hard luck stories.

Three players were sent off during their Group E matches and they suffered a heartbreaking stoppage-time defeat to Lazio in their home tie back in October.

  • Immobile double ends Celtic’s European hopes
  • How the teams lined up | Match stats

It is six years since the Hoops beat Anderlecht and they are now the first British club to go 15 consecutive games without a win in the Champions League/European Cup.

Their home run is worse and they will look to halt a decade of disappointment at Parkhead when they host Feyenoord in their final group match next month.

This season’s campaign is over, but they are likely to return to Europe’s elite competition next season. The question is, how do they find a way to be more competitive?
Alison Conroy


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