Newcastle continued applying pressure in the race for the Champions League with a well deserved victory over Stoke City this afternoon.
Yohan Cabaye and Papiss Cisse gave Newcastle and early foothold in a game the hosts never really looked like losing, before Cabaye scored his second of the game to seal all three points for the home side.
Barring Steven Taylor, Newcastle named what is effectively their strongest team with the only change from the 2-0 victory over Bolton being Cheik Tiote returning to the starting line up. Meanwhile Stoke made three changes from the side that drew 1-1 at Aston Villa with Dean Whitehead, Rory Delap and Kenwyne Jones being replaced by Andy Wilkinson, Glenn Whelan and Peter Crouch.
Newcastle started off brightly without really threatening and you got the sense that the longer the away side could stay level the more they fancied their chances. That theory proved short lived though when Hatem Ben Arfa received the ball on the left wing 14 minutes in and jinked his way past Ryan Shotton before sending over an inch perfect cross for Papiss Cisse who saw his looping header rebound off the crossbar into the path of Yohan Cabaye who headed the rebound powerfully past Asmir Begovic.
Just four minutes later it was 2-0, and two players who conspired to score the opener again combined to put some distance between the two sides, with Yohan Cabaye threading an excellent pass through the Stoke defence for Papiss Cisse who calmly slotted the ball into the corner of the Leazes End net.
Newcastle were playing some excellent stuff and really had Stoke chasing shadows at time, which was perhaps highlighted best when Hatem Ben Arfa bamboozled Wilson Palacios leaving the Honduran with no other option than to pull the enigmatic Frenchman down and earn a yellow card for his troubles.
It could have been 3-0 ten minutes before half-time after Yohan Cabaye threaded yet another ball through the heart of the Stoke defence, this time for Demba Ba who was just pipped to the ball by Ryan Shawcross. Davide Santon also went close after being played in, again by Cabaye, and advancing on the Stoke goal only to shoot tamely at goal.
The second half started off in much the same way as the first, with the home side on the front foot and controlling things. Indeed Demba Ba could have put the hosts out of sight within a minute of the restart had he not looked to take an extra touch in front of goal following a fine Hatem Ben Arfa cross.
Papiss Cisse had the ball in the back of the net following a fine effort from Demba Ba although the smiles were short-lived as the linesman adjudged Cisse to be offside when the ball was struck. TV replays disagree however and show that the Senegal hitman was level at worst. Never mind though as a third legitimate goal soon followed from Yohan Cabaye who curled the ball expertly into the far corner from 25 yards out.
It was exhibition stuff from Newcastle who dominated a poor Stoke outfit. It could have been 4-0 although Fabricio Coloccini managed to waste a free header just six yards from goal, all brought about by a corner earned by Demba Ba who had his shot deflected wide.
With the game won and Stoke not presenting any real threat, Newcastle took their foot off the pedal for the last 20 minutes or so. However they were still easily the better of the two teams and cruised to a comfortable win in a game they never looked like losing from the word go. It didn’t stop them trying to extend the lead either, with Asmir Begovic being forced into two fine saves from long rage Cheik Tiote shots.
In summary, another win for Newcastle, another clean sheet, another goal for Papiss Cisse, and another indication that the Magpies are fighting to the last. As things stand we sit in the final Champions League place, and anything other than a win for Tottenham at Loftus Road this evening will ensure that is where we’ll end the weekend.
Howay the lads!
Newcastle: Tim, Krul, Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini, Davide Santon, Yohan Cabaye, Cheik Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez, Hatem Ben Arfa, Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba
Subs: Rob Elliot, Shane Ferguson, James Perch, Dan Gosling, Ryan Taylor, Leon Best, Shola Ameobi
Stoke: Asmir Begovic, Andy Wilkinson, Robert Huth, Ryan Shawcross, Marc Wilson, Ryan Shotton, Wilson Palacios, Glenn Whelan, Matthew Etherington, Peter Crouch, Jonathan Walters
Subs: Thomas Sorenson, Matthew Upson, Dean Whitehead, Jermaine Penant, Cameron Jerome, Kenwyne Jones, Ricardo Fuller
NUFC Blog Man of the Match: Yohan Cabaye – Two goals and one assist from the former Lille Captain who put in a performance of the highest calibre.