Monday, December 11, 2006

Off and running

Blackburn Rovers 1 - 3 Newcastle Utd

Having taken his time to settle, three goals in a week suggests that at long last Obafemi Martins has started to find his feet in the Premiership. His brace, and a second goal of the season from Steven Taylor, gave Newcastle a win over Blackburn Rovers on Saturday and lifted us to fourteenth in the table at the same time.

Having earlier missed a golden opportunity to open the scoring, Martins made no mistake when Sibierski's long ball over the top gave him the chance to get in behind Rovers' defence. His excellent touch and powerful left foot shot left Brad Friedel rooted to the spot and gave us the lead.

Minutes later, Nicky Butt won the ball on the right following a Newcastle free kick, and his cross found N'Zogbia. The Frenchman's ball across the six yard box found Steven Taylor, still up field following the set piece, and he turned and finished smartly.

With Newcastle firmly in the ascendancy, dominant in midfield, and Martins in particular looking dangerous up front it was no surprise to see the Nigerian played in behind the Rovers defence following a cracking long pass from Emre, only for him to be hauled down by Stephane Henchoz. Dermot Gallagher's resultant red card may have upset Mark Hughes, but Henchoz was clearly the last man, to leave us two-nil up and playing ten men for the remainder of the game.

Unsurprisingly, Blackburn came out for the second half a re-invigorated side, with Andy Todd bolstering their back line, and Morten Gamst Pedersen's excellent right-footed shot allowed the home team back into the game. With Rovers now competing in midfield, and Emre carried off on a stretcher, Newcastle came under pressure. Thankfully Shay Given was up to the task of keeping out any further chances created by Blackburn, and as the clock ran down they threw caution to the wind, and sent Friedel up front for a corner.

With the first corner turned behind, the second fell to a Newcastle player to launch the ball forward, and with the home keeper stranded up field, Martins comfortably beat two defenders to slot the ball into the empty net and secure the three points.

The price of the victory was the departure of Emre on a stretcher, and Solano and Sibierski both feeling injuries - which leaves our already thin squad struggling to field eleven senior players at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. However, even if we lose on Wednesday, the three points gained on Saturday ensures that we are now looking onwards and upwards, and with Martins upfront we will always have the chance of getting a goal on the break.

Highlights: Toongoals

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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