Newcastle United 2 (Ben Arfa 70, Gutierrez 90)
Blackburn Rovers 1
It is a funny old game the FA Cup these days. Once eclipsing the League according to old boys and now…well, seemingly not much higher than the League Cup, until you get to the latter stages that is.
We wondered about team line-ups and there were unenforced substantial changes but only really to the visitors’ starting eleven. No sign of Yakubu or Samba, which is pretty much it, isn’t it?
By contrast, Newcastle kept the same back five and brought in Abeid for Tiote and Ben Arfa replaced Ba, only Obertan returning for Ryan Taylor and Best replacing Shola were unenforced alterations. Whether those two changes weakened or strengthened the team is a bit like Jedward arguing as to who has the best haircut.
The phrase ‘After The Lord Mayor’s Show’ was used a lot before the game and even though I’ve never seen one of those shows I know what they are getting at and it was true today. The atmosphere and sense of occasion was never going to come close to last Wednesday and when the crowd was announced at a touch over thirty thousand I was surprised as it looked not much more than twenty five.
The start was low key but United looked comfortable with Ben Arfa having space to work in between their box and the halfway line. From one forward run he slid in Cabaye with a lovely cute pass which saw Yohan blaze over from around twelve yards. Best and Gutierrez having already seen shots beaten away by their second choice keeper.
The match then faded into something matching the dreary (non-)atmosphere and the inevitable happened, a standard corner saw Hanley’s header parried by Krul only for Goodwillie to scramble the rebound.
A lot of shortcomings appeared to be exposed as Best was woeful whilst some like Simpson looked to be running on empty as the game wore on.
Pardew had to shuffle his small pack and Ryan Taylor replaced Simpson with the disappointing Obertan replaced by Shola who went up front, meaning Ben Arfa shifted right wing.
Things were levelled with a moment of pure genius, Ben Arfa cut in from the left and seemed to beat around half their team (I’ll have to count them on TV later) with an exhilarating dribble before lashing superbly home.
“It’s the greatest goal, in my opinion, I have ever seen with my eyes because just the technical part of it – to beat six players, to skip past people, left-foot, right-foot, cut-back, accelerate, everything that was involved in it, it was an unbelievable goal.” Alan Pardew
The leveller was with twenty minutes to go and from there it was clear only the home side would stand a chance of grabbing a decider.
Half chances came and went and it looked as though Blackburn were seeing it out, four minutes injury time and around three and a half of those had gone.
Jonas (probably man of the match) went on another determined run and twisted and turned into the box with his new slightly more direct style, a clever ball into Best who for once managed to do his job, his return ball very cleverly put away by our Argentinian winger. Cue dramatic celebrations; a rubbish match with two quite superb goals, no doubt preferable to a decent performance with no end product.
Bring on the draw.
[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RuZKl8laC0″ rel=”0″ showinfo=”0″]
Newcastle United (4-4-1-1): Tim Krul, Danny Simpson (Ryan Taylor 59), Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Davide Santon, Gabriel Obertan (Shola Ameobi 56), Mehdi Abeid (Dan Gosling 86), Yohan Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez, Hatem Ben Arfa, Leon Best.
Substitutes: Rob Elliot, James Perch, Haris Vuckic, Sammy Ameobi.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-1-1): Mark Bunn, Adam Henley, Grant Hanley, Gael Givet (c), Martin Olsson (Jason Lowe 75), Simon Vukcevic, Steven Nzonzi, Radosav Petrovic, Morten Gamst Pedersen, Ruben Rochina (Mauro Formica 56), David Goodwillie (Jordan Slew 82).
Substitutes: Jake Kean, Josh Morris, Nick Blackman, Yakubu.
Referee: Kevin Friend
Attendance: 30,876 (357 away fans)