Cutting edge is lacking for Newcastle United as it prepares for the EFL Cup final.

Despite the severe damage caused by the loss to Liverpool, Newcastle United supporters streamed out of St James’ Park and marched into the bustling city center shouting songs of defiance.

A beautiful tribute to Sir Bobby Robson, who managed his beloved Magpies and would have turned 90 on Saturday, kicked off a soggy night in Tyneside inside this enormous stadium.

The game ended with fourth-placed Newcastle uncomfortably peering over their shoulder at Liverpool’s mini-revivalists, who now trail Eddie Howe’s team by six points with one game remaining after winning their second straight match 2-0.

The Carabao Cup final between Manchester United and Wembley next Sunday is another opportunity to end the wait for a significant trophy that dates back to the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup victory in 1969, and it was the focus of the serenades outside the stadium.

Even still, the red card awarded to goalkeeper Nick Pope, who disqualifies him from Newcastle’s first major event since the 1999 FA Cup final, casts a cloud over even those tones of hope.

When Pope, a key player in Newcastle’s comeback, made a terrible mess of a run from goal to attack Mohamed Salah, Newcastle was already down 2-0. He tripped, panicked, and took what he thought was his only escape from Newcastle losing 3-0 by snatching the ball away from Salah as he lay face down on the ground.

The subsequent red card for referee Anthony Taylor was inevitable.

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Nick Pope, a goalkeeper for Newcastle, was sent off in the 22nd minute of his team’s 2-0 loss to Liverpool at St. James’ Park. This is the earliest that a goalie has ever been sent off and conceded twice in a Premier League game.
Around St. James’ Park, there was a loud collective groan, which was followed by another when it dawned on everyone that Pope’s actions had wider implications than just this evening.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Newcastle displayed admirable spirit, but there is a nagging worry that Howe’s team may be reaching their breaking point after working so hard to surpass expectations this season.

They are still in a good spot and would have been content to be there at the beginning of the season. The only team to defeat them in the league this year is Liverpool, and that defeat came at Anfield in the very last second. Another indication of their impressive run is the fact that the two goals they let up in this game’s opening 17 minutes matched the total of goals they had allowed in their previous eight league contests.

However, when the surface is scratched, concern arises.

In their last seven league games, Newcastle has only won one, drawn five, and scored three goals.

Their competitive edge is currently lost. Poor timing prevails. At times, they appear to have achy legs.

Anthony Gordon (right) of Newcastle responds to his team’s 2-0 loss to Liverpool at home.
In the first 17 minutes of their match against Liverpool, Newcastle allowed more goals than they had in their previous eight Premier League games combined (2)
Due to the possibilities available, Pope’s absence could actually change the course of events next weekend.

It makes sense that Howe would be praising Mark Gillespie and Loris Karius as Pope’s replacements, but there is little doubt that their hopes of returning with a trophy to show off in front of their ardent fans have been severely dashed.

Karis hasn’t played for the first team since he faced Hoffenheim for Union Berlin in the Bundesliga nearly two years ago. The 30-year-old Gillespie has not appeared since his three League Cup appearances for Newcastle in September 2020.

Howe believed that despite only appearing in practice and friendly games, they would be “match ready.” The Toon Army will all be hoping he is correct.

Although prominent midfielder Bruno Guimaraes will be returning at Wembley to bring his world-class flair to the important occasion, Pope’s absence is undoubtedly the biggest blow they could have endured.

Before Newcastle’s game against Liverpool, a banner honoring Sir Bobby Robson was displayed at the stadium on the day before his 90th birthday.
Before Newcastle’s game against Liverpool, a banner honoring Sir Bobby Robson was displayed at the stadium on the day before his 90th birthday.
Newcastle will be buoyed by Tyneside’s decampment to Wembley for the day, but the days leading up to and following the championship game might be nerve-wracking.

Liverpool has the ability to make a run to capture that position, assuming Arsenal, Manchester City, and Manchester United will be the top three, even though Newcastle now holds fourth place and has points on the board. Suddenly, they have a foreboding appearance.

Newcastle is still very optimistic, and rightfully so, but there is no escape the harsh reality that they need to get out of this mini-slump quickly since there is so much at stake in the upcoming weeks.

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