Newcastle United 2 (Guthrie 43, Ben Arfa 85)
A game of two halves…the good, the bad and the ugly…you take your choice.
If you didn’t see this match you might be very surprised by the final score, if you did see the match then you’ll still be in shock now after watching the first half.
Newcastle absolutely bossed the opening 45 minutes with Fulham quite literally hardly having a kick. Fingertip saves from Ben Arfa and Shola paved the way for a 25 yard left screamer for Guthrie just before half-time, the reality though is we should have been out of sight by that point and were thus made to pay in the end.
A brave (and definitely right in my opinion) to play the most attacking formation Pardew had available looked to be paying maximum dividends, as United passed them to death in that opening 45 minutes, at times it was unreal how much we were on top.
Two up front plus, or rather a kind of front three with Best on Shola’s left and Ben Arfa right with Jonas in a fee role as Guthrie and Cabaye held the middle.
Jonas especially is thriving on this kind of formation and I really hope the manager sticks with it because when we have our proper strikers back up top, with Cheick Tiote in behind, this could be some team to watch.
Maybe the performance was best summed up by Guthrie who was outstanding up to halfway but then went to pieces in the second.
Fulham had though helped themselves as well, Sidwell replaced by Johnson just before half-time and they went two up front.
Five minutes into the second period and Shola fails to retain the ball up front, play switches and Duff dives after the slightest contact from Santon. A soft penalty dispatched to level things.
Newcastle just couldn’t react to this undeserved setback and ten minutes later, in the 59th minute, Dempsey put them 2-1 up with another desperate piece of luck for United, Krul saved well from Zamora but hit Dempsey and ended up in the net with him knowing little about it.
Five minutes later it was game over as yet again Shola was too slow, or is that uncommitted?, to keep possession and play was quickly switched for Dempsey to finish the match off.
Two more goals for Fulham followed as Johnson won the hosts another soft penalty with Krul booked and Dempsey scoring with a minute to go.
Ben Arfa had split their fourth and fifth goals with a cracker, cutting in from the right he twisted and turned into the box before beating the keeper at his near post.
Throughout he’d been a threat whenever he had the ball but the problem was he didn’t get it often enough.
Ben Arfa’s recent goals bring sharp focus onto both Best ( runs around a lot but…) and Shola (doesn’t run around a lot but…), they just never look like scoring and while say Dempsey was lucky with his rebound for their second, our strikers just wouldn’t be in the right place and/or have the football instinct to react.
The defending was exposed and Williamson especially looked too slow in the second period.
Newcastle played an expansive game and didn’t deserve the final result, it gives Alan Pardew food for thought but no need to panic after a day when Newcastle didn’t get what they deserved.
Fulham (4-3-3): David Stockdale, Stephen Kelly, Brede Hangeland, Philippe Senderos, John Arne Riise, Steve Sidwell (Andrew Johnson 37), Danny Murphy (c), Clint Dempsey (Kerim Frei 90), Damien Duff, Bobby Zamora, Bryan Ruiz (Chris Baird 46)
Subs not used: Neil Etheridge, Matthew Briggs, Aaron Hughes, Marcel Gecov
Newcastle United (4-2-3-1): Tim Krul, Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini, Davide Santon, Yohan Cabaye (Dan Gosling 83), Danny Guthrie (James Perch 76), Hatem Ben Arfa, Jonas Gutierrez, Leon Best (Ryan Taylor 85), Shola Ameobi
Subs not used: Rob Elliot, Shane Ferguson, Gabriel Obertan, Peter Lovenkrands
Referee: Lee Mason