Newcastle’s Senegalese strike pairing Demba Ba and Papiss Demba Cisse managed to put a disappointing African Cup of Nations campaign behind them by notching a goal each in a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa at St James’ Park this afternoon.
Demba Ba had given the home side the lead midway through the first half before Robbie Keane equalised for Aston Villa. The new boy in town managed to grab the headlines though with a stunning turn and half-volley which was about as “top corner” as you could get leaving ex-Newcastle stalwart Shay Given with absolutely no chance of getting anywhere near the ball.
Aston Villa had the better of the opening exchanges and created the first chance of the match for Darren Bent, who was thwarted from a tight angle by Tim Krul who then followed up the save by denying Stiliyan Petrov from the rebound.
Papiss Cisse had to make do with a role on the bench, but he was soon to be given his chance courtesy of an injury to Leon Best who was withdrawn in the 14th minute with what we know is a medial ligament injury. Cisse entered the St James’ Park pitch to a rapturous applause as the home fans welcomed the next number nine to Newcastle United.
Aside from a flicked header a couple of minutes after his arrival, Cisse’s introduction failed to temper the visitors who continued to create chances and have the better of the play. Darren Bent was once again denied by Tim Krul while Robbie Keane looked threatening throughout.
However the opening goal arrived somewhat against the run of play, and it was a familiar name who inflicted the damage once more. Danny Guthrie crossed into the box only to see it cleared by Richard Dunne to Ryan Taylor at the back post who smashed the ball back across goal for Demba Ba to instinctively trap and turn before firing past Shay Given. That was Demba Ba’s 16th goal of the season but it was Ryan Taylor who paid the price and was stretchered off the field with his leg in a brace sucking on gas and air in a scene reminiscent of Hatem Ben Arfa 18 months ago.
Fortunately it would appear that there has been no damage done aside from some severe bruising following the clash with Stephen Warnock, which is great news in truth. Taylor may not be my favourite player, but I wouldn’t want him injured at all. Gabriel Obertan replaced the Scouse lad.
Newcastle looked to be eeking towards half-time holding the advantage but Aston Villa hit back deep into the six minutes of added on time. Charles N’Zogbia crossed into the box for Robbie Keane who made the most of empty space in the middle of the penalty area and fired past Tim Krul. Personally I blame Fabricio Coloccini for the goal as he left the space for Robbie Keane to ghost into although I know others blame Danny Simpson for the goal, even though he had N’Zogbia going towards the byline.
Half time: Newcastle 1-1 Aston Villa
Newcastle started the second half brightly and could have regained the lead after Shay Given uncharacteristically fumbled a Danny Guthrie cross although both Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse were unable to capitalise.
Gabriel Obertan once again showed signs of improvement and went close, well sort of, after working his way into the box although he sliced his effort wide. Perhaps the most guilt-edged chance fell the way of our new number nine though who headed over after a cute Danny Guthrie cross.
However the debutant wasn’t to be denied and made his mark on proceedings in the 71st minute after controlling a Jonas Gutierrez cross with his chest and smashing an unstoppable volley past the hapless Shay Given to open his Newcastle account in style.
James Perch sent a long range effort just wide whilst Cisse had another volleyed attempt blocked by the Aston Villa defence. Villa weren’t out of it though and went close to scoring an equaliser through both Gary Gardner and Clark although nothing was to come of it in the end leaving Newcastle sitting pretty in 5th place.
Full time: Newcastle 2-1 Aston Villa
I have a few final thoughts after this game. The first one being the budding partnership between Ba and Cisse. Granted they have played together before, but there were signs today that they know how each other plays and they went close to cleverly linking up several times. With time that link will get better.
In terms of performance, it wasn’t great once again but then it’s worth bearing in mind that neither of our first choice central midfield pairing played. Yohan Cabaye was suspended and with Cheik Tiote still at ACoN with Ivory Coast we were missing two big players in the middle of the park.
The thing is, we keep on getting the job done and when you look at our league position you have to wonder if our performances are better than what some fans give them credit for? Yes we could play more fluid football, but I’d rather be dogged and determined and win than play tippy-tappy stuff and get beat. Of course there is a middle ground, but remember we have key players missing.
Finally, Gabriel Obertan. He impressed me once again today. He didn’t find the back of the net on this occasion but he did look more threatening and looked to take on the defender rather than passing backwards to the nearest available black and white shirt. His defensive work should also be noted. He tracked back and helped out Danny Simpson numerous and generally put himself about whilst also providing an outlet with his pace.
Oh and another thing, thanks to Big Dave for stepping in and bailing me out of the poo-poo by publishing the team news. You see, he can spell…
Howay the lads!
Newcastle: Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Davide Santon; Ryan Taylor, James Perch, Danny Guthrie, Jonas Gutierrez; Leon Best, Demba Ba
Subs: Rob Elliot, Shane Ferguson, Dan Gosling, Gabriel Obertan, Hatem Ben Arfa, Shola Ameobi, Papiss Cisse
Aston Villa: Shay Given; Richard Dunne, Carlos Cuellar, Stephen Warnock, Alan Hutton; Stiliyan Petrov, Ciaran Clark, Charles N’Zogbia, Stephen Ireland; Robbie Keane, Darren Bent,
Subs: Brad Guzan, Emile Heskey, Eric Lichaj, Nathan Baker, Barry Bannan, Andreas Weimann, Gary Gardner