Sunday 28 August 2011 1pm
Newcastle United 2 (Best 48, 66)
“I have known him for a long, long time and come up against him a couple of times and for me, he has never really had a run where he has said, ‘I’m the man’. He will get an opportunity now and he needs to prove it”. Alan Pardew
I really don’t think it’s unfair to say that nothing of note occurred in the first 44 minutes of the match.
There may have been mitigating factors in this, with tired players failing to be geed on by anything resembling an atmosphere. The movement of the singing section has practically euthanised the background at SJP, and the presence of an apparent 443 travelling Fulham fans left the top tier of the Leazes looking pathetic.
Anyway, I was on about that thing that happened in the 44th minute: Tiote’s cross was met with a decent header by Jonas but Schwarzer saved in the fashion of someone who was going to be a bastard who doesn’t let in goals against Newcastle. For the brief remainder of the half,Newcastle sprung magnificently to life, laying siege to the goal with a constant circle of shots and corners. Best, Cabaye and the ominously-approaching Ryan Taylor all had a good go but the half ended goalless.
The second half hadn’t had much wear though, by the time Newcastle made the breakthrough. Cabaye launched a vicious 25-yard drive that bounced awkwardly in front of Schwarzer who still managed to deflect it on to the bar. However, it came down nicely for Leon Best who reacted swiftly to tippy-tap the ball gently over the line with enough pace to give us the lead without unnecessarily risking damage to the back of the net.
From here Fulham came back a little bit but soon wore off. All I have to say about them at this point is that Duff got booed a lot, Dempsey is an irritating little workie ticket who goes on far too American and Brent Hangeland is an obscenely enormous brute of a man who gave me a headache as it looked like he was much closer than anyone else on the pitch.
With United easily dismantling a Fulham offensive, Obertan took off on a powerful marauding run from what seemed one diagonal corner to the other and had the visitors scrambling back chaotically. Obertan switched the play neatly to the right flank, picking out Ba who absolutely panned the ball across the danger zone. It wasn’t so obvious in real time but Best’s first touch was sublime, backheeling the ball in the act of turning before firing his second past Schwarzer.
Best was starting to look a more confident player and was maybe sensing a second Premier League hat-trick to go with January’s treble against the Hammers, so he was naturally promptly taken off. Haris Vuckic came on in his place and immediately broke his hand, so off he went and on came Alan Smith to get a yellow card.
A nervy injury time was whiled away and a fine 7-point haul from an awkward trio of opening games represented our best start to a top-flight season since the legendary 95-96 campaign. Second place this time is the stuff of ludicrous dreams as opposed to crushing disappointment of course.
Newcastle United: Tim Krul, Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Ryan Taylor, Gabriel Obertan, Yohan Cabaye, Cheik Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez, Leon Best (Haris Vuckic 78, Alan Smith 86), Peter Lovenkrands (Demba Ba 62).
Subs not used: Ole Soderberg, Shane Ferguson, Sylvain Marveaux, Sammy Ameobi.
Fulham: Mark Schwarzer, Chris Baird, Brede Hangeland, Aaron Hughes, Matthew Briggs, Damien Duff, Steve Sidwell, Danny Murphy (c), Pajtim Kasami (Andrew Johnson 73), Clint Dempsey, Mousa Dembele.
Subs not used: Neil Etheridge, Stephen Kelly, Philippe Senderos, Dickson Etuhu, Marcel Gecov, Karim Frei.
Referee: Kevin Friend
Attendance: 42,684 (433 away fans)