Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa opened Newcastle’s account for the season by grabbing three points over Champions League qualifier rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, with a 2-1 win at the Sports Direct Arena.
Alan Pardew named the Senegalese forward partnership of Demba Ba and Demba Papiss Cisse upfront, whilst giving the nod to Steven Taylor and James Perch at centre back. Newcastle United First XI: Krul; Simpson, Taylor, Perch, Santon; Guiterrez, Cabaye, Tiote, Ben Arfa; Cisse, Ba.
Throughout the week, Alan Pardew admitted that he didn’t know how new boss Andre Villas-Boas would line up his team to face Newcastle at the weekend, rumours of a false 9 started to gather pace on Twitter and through the media, but it was not to be, as Andre Villas Boas handed Jermain Defoe a start, after his winning goal for England versus Italy mid week. Tottenham Hotspur’s First XI: Friedel; Walker, Gallas, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Sandro, Livermore; Lennon, Sigurdsson, Bale; Defoe.
Newcastle kicked off the first half, for their first home game of the season, but started very tentatively, with Spurs pressing high, leading to wayward passes from Newcastle’s defence and midfield, especially midfield enforcer Tiote.
The first real chance came through a Spurs counter attack, after Newcastle’s freekick was cleared, luckily it can be said, by Benoit Assou Ekotto’s and found Lennon on the right, who sprant down the right, laying off Sandro, finding Sigurdsson, who shot at Krul, only to be judged offside.
Within the space of two minutes, Ben Arfa single handedly managed to get the two Tottenham central midfielders booked, meaning they had to sit tight for the rest of the game, hoping not to be sent off in the first game of the season.
Newcastle United nearly took the lead in the 22nd minute, Ba shot from outside of the area, only to be deflected by his striker partner, Cisse, just wide of Friedel’s post, to his relief.
The first half was very scruffy, neither team being able to dictate the tempo, and the centre back pairings for both teams rarely came under any pressure, but the first clear cut chance of the game came for Spurs and Jermain Defoe, Defoe was given the ball on the edge of the area, running into the box, then hitting the Tim Krul’s post, Sigurdsson holding his head in his hands after not being able to get the rebound.
Minutes later, Tottenham had another great chance to take the lead, through Lennon’s pace and drive, dwindling a cross across the area, to meet Bale’s head, AVB thought it was in, as did Bale, only to smack the bar.
The second half began with a bit of ill discipline from the Newcastle United boss, Alan Pardew, after linesman Peter Kirkup judged that Bale kept the ball in play, to the annoyance of Pardew, pushed Kirkup. Martin Atkinson took the decision to send Pardew to the stands, the FA have said they will review the incident, resulting in a possible touchline ban for the Magpies boss.
It seemed that whatever Pardew said at the interval, however, paid dividens, as Newcastle came out the dressing room pumped up, although it can be said Tottenham’s high pressure on the Newcastle defence started to become very lazy, and without the intensity that they had in the first half.
10 minutes after the start of the second half, Newcastle got the breakthrough, through an exquisite Demba Ba finish. It was his first goal in fourteen games, Simpson crossed a diagonal ball towards the Senegalese forward, Walker misjudged the cross, heading it into Ba’s feet, with Gallas trying to pressure Ba, Ba curled the ball into Friedel’s far post, the Sports Direct Arena went into pandemonium, with Ba kneeling and kissing the ground. 1-0 Newcastle.
Tottenham felt they had a point to prove after going 1-0 down, after dominating vast periods of the match, but without the cutting edge and clinical finishing of Demba Ba. Jake Livermore tried to get as much of the ball as he could, dropping deep to find passes to switch to the flanks and to Sigurdsson.
Two minutes after Ba’s superb finish, Icelandic playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson tried to bend it like Ba, but to no avail.
With just Jermain Defoe playing off the last Newcastle defender, there wasn’t enough pressure being put on the inexperienced duo of Taylor and Perch, and Newcastle began to find a passing rhythm.
Dutch internationals Vurmon Anita and Rafael van der Vaart came on for their respective teams, with Anita making his Premier League and Newcastle United debut, the new number 10, Rafael van der Vaart came on for Sigurdsson.
Finally, Spurs’ hard paid pressure and attacking instincts paid off in the 75th minute, Lennon floated the ball into the Newcastle penalty area, Gallas headed the ball into Krul’s hands who palmed it to the post, and who was there waiting to poach? Jermain Defoe, 1-1 Spurs.
A deserved goal for Tottenham, AVB celebrates, but the celebrations were short lived.
Newcastle won a corner in the 79th minute, Ben Arfa played it short, received the ball back, before dribbling his way into the penalty box, Lennon couldn’t keep his balance, and van der Vaart couldn’t keep his leg out the way before bringing Ben Arfa down in the penalty area, Atkinson pointed to the spot.
Ba and Cisse wanted the ball to take the penalty, but Ben Arfa kept hold of the ball, and calming slotted it to Friedel’s left, 2-1 Newcastle.
Tottenham seemingly depressed after warranting enough to deserve a point, whilst Newcastle jubilant with an unexpected victory over the North London side, but clinical finishing won the game, something that Tottenham lack, which was addressed by AVB in the post match interview:
“We’re searching for one more striker. We’re confident we can get it closed in the next couple of days.”
West Brom visit Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Saturday, with AVB’s men looking for their first three points of the season, but could be a difficult task after West Brom comprehensively beat Liverpool 3-0 at the Hawthorns, while Newcastle visit Stamford Bridge in the tea time kick off next Saturday.
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