jueves, 22 de diciembre de 2011

Newcastle 2 - 3 West Brom

And the question on every supporter’s mind is whether the club’s ready to buy its way out of a worrying slump.

Christmas came early for West Bromwich Albion, 3-2 winners at St James’s Park last night.

The club’s success this season has been built on defensive resilience, but a previously rock-solid defence has been rocking recent weeks.

And at least one defender is a must in next month’s transfer window, not to mention a striker.

Alan Pardew’s side were in an unusually charitable mood on an unseasonably mild night – and West Bromwich Albion were only too happy to unwrap their gifts.

It was a frustrating start for Newcastle, and they couldn’t fashion the kind of clear-cut early opportunities they had against Swansea four days earlier.

The influence of Yohan Cabaye, always capable of a telling pass and more than willing to put his foot in, was missed in a few scrappy exchanges, while Roy Hodgson’s side – and Peter Odemwingie in particular – were dangerous on the break.

Haris Vuckic, making his full Premier League debut in the absence of Cabaye through suspension, is also capable of a decisive ball, and the teenager made one for Demba Ba in the 19th minute, but the striker was marginally offside.

The frustration deepened in the 20th minute when another break forward from West Brom led to Odemwingie opening the scoring, the striker latching on to a clever ball through the middle from Chris Brunt to beat Tim Krul with a neat left-footed finish.

Pardew will have been concerned that the visitors broke so quickly, and with such ease, through an area where his team have been so strong this season.

For all United’s possession, Ben Foster was largely untroubled in the West Brom goal, with Newcastle’s final ball letting them down time and again, though Ba was a danger whenever he was found by a team-mate.

At the other end, where Odemwingie and Shane Long were happy to play on the shoulder of Fabricio Coloccini and Perch, United looked vulnerable.

However, the equaliser wasn’t long in coming. A surging run forward from Gabriel Obertan was brought to an abrupt halt on the edge of the box by Jerome Thomas, and Ba stepped up to take the resulting free-kick.

Ba’s right-footed effort flew past a helpless Foster, the 34th-minute goal his 12th of the season. Dead-ball specialist Cabaye couldn’t have done better himself.

Match Report: Newcastle United 0 Swansea City 0

However, Ba was culpable, in part, for West Brom’s second goal late in the half, his needless foul on Youssuf Mulumbu leading to the Brunt free-kick which was eventually headed past Krul by Gareth McAuley.

Vuckic struck the post before the interval with a stunning shot, and Ba fizzed an effort narrowly wide of Foster’s goal early in the second half after Ryan Taylor, on for Davide Santon in an early change, found him.

Yet as Newcastle chased the game, they became even more vulnerable at the back, and Shane Long should have scored after Mulumbu was given the freedom of the pitch to find him in the 53th minute.

Pardew was understandably furious, and no wonder, while United’s fans were showing their frustration, and calling for the introduction of Hatem Ben Arfa.

That came just past the hour mark to a roar from all sides of St James’s Park, and he had a hand in Ba’s second goal, the forward playing in his team-mate, whose instinctive finish set up a grandstand finish.

Only the decisive conclusion came at the Leazes End, where 800 visiting fans joyously celebrated Paul Scharner’s winning goal five minutes from time when the midfielder prodded home after a swift counter-attack.

Referee Anthony Taylor’s whistle was followed by half-hearted boos in parts of the ground, and what is clear is that next month – on and off the pitch – will have a huge bearing on where Newcastle finish this season.


NEWCASTLE UNITED: Krul 6; Simpson 6, Perch 5, Coloccini 6, Santon 6 (R Taylor, 46, 6); Obertan 5 (Shola Ameobi, 72, 6), Tiote 6, Vuckic 7, Gutierrez 6; Best 5 (Ben Arfa, 61, 6), Ba 8. Subs not used: Elliot, Williamson, Abeid, Sammy Ameobi.

WEST BROMWICH ALBION: Foster; Reid (Jones 7), Scharner, Olsson, Shorey; Thomas (Dorrans, 68), Mulumbu (Thorne, 76), McAuley, Brunt; Odemwingie, Long. Subs not used: Fulop, Cox, Dawson, Fortune.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Demba Ba. United can ill-afford to lose him to the African Cup of Nations.

HIGHLIGHT: The bright full league debut enjoyed by Haris Vuckic.

LOWLIGHT: Newcastle’s defending was a far cry from that earlier in the season.

Goals: Odemwingie 20, Ba 34, 81, McAuley 44, Scharner 85

Bookings: Coloccini 90

Referee: Anthony Taylor (Manchester)

Attendance: 51,060 (800 West Brom)

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