Five controversial moments from this season that could make or break Newcastle’s Champions League hopes

2NGN0YX Newcastle United goalkeeper Nick Pope (right) leaves the pitch after being being shown a red card during the Premier League match at St. James’ Park, Newcastle upon Tyne. Picture date: Saturday February 18, 2023.

When Nick Pope was lucky to avoid being sent off for the second time in three matches in Newcastle United’s 2-1 victory against Wolves, it was the latest controversial moment to shape Newcastle’s season in their hunt for Champions League football.

Early in the game with the score at 0-0, Pope appeared to bring down Raul Jimenez in the penalty area after failing to control a routine back pass from Sven Botman. Referee Andy Madley decided not to award Wolves a penalty and subsequently send off Pope, and the decision undoubtedly had huge implications on the course of the match. Madley was not even asked to have another look at the incident on the pitch-side monitor, much to the surprise of many.

Eddie Howe claimed that the Wolves number nine was already on his way down, but Wolves manager Julen Lopetegui was visibly furious after the final whistle. Alan Shearer agreed with the Wolves boss, admitting that his former side were lucky to escape without conceding the penalty.

Had Madley decided to award the penalty and send Pope off, the Newcastle stopper would have received a four-match ban due to it being his second red card of the season.

The Magpies struggled without Pope in the Carabao Cup defeat against Manchester United, so four games without their key stopper could easily have dented their Champions League hopes.

Despite this, incidents like this are common throughout a season and can fall either way, so, here are five more controversial moments that may decide Newcastle’s fate come May:

Pope sees red against Liverpool

Newcastle were already 2-0 down against Liverpool when Pope flew out of his penalty area to take the ball away from Mohammed Salah as he was bearing down on goal. Unfortunately, Pope did so with his hand, and Anthony Taylor had no hesitation in brandishing the red card.

While the decision was probably correct, not everyone was in agreement due to Sean Longstaff covering, and Gary Lineker claimed that the red card should have been reversed ahead of the Carabao Cup final.

Newcastle went on to dominate the rest of the match despite only having 10 men, but it was Liverpool that took all three points back to Merseyside.

With Liverpool just two points behind Newcastle in their own pursuit of Champions League football, the decision feels all the more significant.

‘Fergie Time’ at Anfield

Back in August in the reverse fixture at Anfield, Newcastle fell to their first defeat of the season after Fabio Carvalho lashed home from close range in the 98th minute.

This left the Geordies furious, as referee Andre Marriner had initially added just five minutes of stoppage time. Eddie Howe refused to comment on the amount of injury time that was awarded, although he did feel that “the full time whistle would never come.”

The additional time that allowed Carvalho’s goal has since been attributed to Pope going down with an injury in stoppage time, but Howe felt that he needed more clarity as to how many further minutes would be played.

At the time, the significance of the decision may have been understated due to people not yet knowing how poor Liverpool would be and how good Newcastle would be. Now, it is evident that the goal is responsible for a three point swing in the battle for Champions League football.

Dan Burn’s lucky escape in London

Arsenal had a 100% home record in the 2022/23 season when they welcomed Newcastle to the Emirates Stadium in their first game of 2023. After a gutsy display, the Magpies managed to hold out for an impressive 0-0 draw, much to the frustration of title-chasing Arsenal.

The solid defensive work was almost undone in the second half when Arsenal’s colossal centre back Gabriel was brought down in the penalty area after a free kick was swung in. Replays showed that Burn had a handful of Gabriel’s shirt and on another day, a penalty could have been given.

This hard-fought point on the road may be the difference in what looks set to be a close battle for fourth place in the Premier League.

VAR controversy denies the Magpies a win over the Eagles

Back in early September, Newcastle and Crystal Palace played out a goalless thriller at St James’ Park. Despite both teams combining for 43 shots in the game, neither side was able to break the deadlock in a frustrating afternoon.

Newcastle thought they had opened the scoring in the 51st minute when Tyrick Mitchell bundled the ball into his own net. VAR ruled the goal out after Joe Willock was judged to have fouled Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita. While Willock did clatter into him with some force, he was shoved in the back by Mitchell as he was jumping which is what sent him flying into Guaita.

The embarrassed look on Mitchell’s face after the ball bounced into the net and the lack of an appeal from him would indicate that Newcastle were hard done by.

Casemiro to miss Newcastle clash

After his superb performance in the Carabao Cup final, Toon fans will have been pleased to see the news that Casemiro will miss the clash at St James’ Park in early April.

The Brazilian midfielder was sent off for a challenge on Southampton’s Carlos Alcaraz, and will miss the next four games due to it being his second red card of the season.

Manchester United boss Erik Ten Hag felt the decision was harsh, and replays showed that Casemiro got a touch on the ball before catching Alcaraz with his follow through.

The Red Devils have looked significantly weaker without the combative midfielder in their side, and Newcastle will now fancy their chances of collecting all three points when the sides meet. With Newcastle just six points behind Man United with a game in hand, this fixture will be crucial in the race for Champions League football.

Toon fans will also hope that Casemiro’s absence will lead to more dropped points for the Manchester club, allowing them to close the gap further.