Monday, September 20, 2010

Up and Hatem!

Everton 0 - 1 Newcastle Utd

A Hatem Ben Arfa thunderbolt was enough to give Newcastle victory against the blue half of Merseyside on Saturday, as we bounced back from last week's defeat to Blackpool.

Chris Hughton elected to shuffle the pack for the first time this season, new boys Ben Arfa and Chiek Tiote handed their first starts for the club with Spidermag and Alan Smith dropping to the bench. The change in personnel didn't see a change in tactics, with our five-man midfield setting out to dominate an Everton team whose season looked to be finally underway after their late draw against Man Utd last week.

However, it was the visitors to Goodison who again started the brighter, with Wayne Routledge heading a Jose Enrique cross wide in the tenth minute and steady Newcastle pressure being applied to the home side for much of the first half. ASBO bought a decent save from Timmy Tourettes in the home goal, whilst at the other end Steve Harper was an anonymous bystander.

Unfortunately he then became an anonymous man in an ambulance following a late, clumsy challenge from one-time Toon target Jermaine Beckford who cleaned Harper out after the 'keeper had comfortably caught a hopeful punt forward. Landing heavily, Harper was clearly in trouble, and post-match reports of ligament damage in his shoulder could see him out for a while.

With Harper off, Tim Krul came off the bench for his first Premier League appearance and, with the exception of one Leon Osman effort, had little to do in the first half.

Whilst Timmy Tourettes had been much the busier keeper, his goal had remained intact almost until half-time. However, with the dressing room beckoning, Hatem Ben Arfa picked up the ball in the middle of the park and with Everton failing to close him down, our on-loan Frenchman moved the ball onto his favoured left foot and let fly a screamer of Laurent Robert proportions, which whistled into the far corner of the net, to give Newcastle a deserved lead.

David Moyes opted to try and shuffle his pack at half time with Yakubu replacing the ineffective Beckford and Seamus Coleman coming on in place of Tony Hibbert at right back. Inevitably the home side managed to rouse themselves to apply a bit more pressure, but Newcastle stood firm, with Mike Williamson in particular dealing with the physical presence of Marouane Fellaini and neutering Everton's threat. Fellaini was lucky to remain on the pitch when he swung out an arm and appeared to catch Williamson, with referee Andre Marriner opting to show him only a yellow card - despite a clear swinging arm.

At the other end, Newcastle continued to look the more likely to score and we should have had a penalty when ASBO found Nolan in the box only for his run to be curtailed by a tackle from behind by Coleman. Mystifyingly Marriner waved play on despite the sliding Toffee getting absolutely none of the ball and a lot of the man and leaving Nolan incensed by the injustice.

As they had done last week, Everton finally stirred themselves for a final onslaught as first Yakubu's stabbed shot hit the post, rebounding safely for Krul to catch and then in the last seconds Fellaini sidefooted Leighton Baines' cross wide under pressure from Coloccini.

With that miss, Everton's chance was gone and we secured the only Premier League away win on Saturday to climb back up the table.

On the plus side Ben Arfa's performance caught the headlines, but Tiote also looked impressive, driving the team forward and giving bite in midfield.

However, the loss of Harper is a big blow, and it will be interesting to see whether we can and do recall Fraser Forster from Celtic as a result. Similarly, James Perch managed to make it five bookings in five league games to pick up an automatic one-match ban. In my view, Danny Simpson's return can't come quickly enough at the moment with our summer acquisition from Forest continuing to look slightly out of his depth at this level, whilst Simpson's stock continues to rise as a result of his enforced absence.

Still, three more points to the total and a league table in which we're above the Great Unwashed. Happy days.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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