Saturday 7 January 2012 pm
F A Cup 3rd Round

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.

Into the second half and little improvement with any threat coming from the encouraging partnership between Jonas and Santon, a player I think is going to be a real class act.

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.


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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)

  • Anonymous

    Watch these goals tonight, Ben Arfa especially – best goal you will ever see? Feel sorry for anybody who decided not to go today and missed those goals…not!

  • Anonymous

    Today showed a lot of things – likes of Best clearly not good enough, Obertan needs to be left out until whenever and That cracker from Ben Arfa – we need to get him integrated into our team, a player who can do that type of thing is a reare talent. OUR! talent.

    • Anonymous

      …obviously that was meant to be ‘Rare’ talent!

  • Anonymous

    I know we didn’t play well but after going a goal down our players did show the character to come back. Trouble is our general play has to produce more goals and not rely just on moments of brilliance like those of Jonas and Ben Arfa.

  • Anonymous

    Can’t think of a better goal I have ever seen at SJP – anyone who has played footie will appreciate the skill level of Ben Afra’s goal and the pace of the run, absolutely bloody brilliant!

  • Mal

    Ben Arfa’s was an unforgettable goal and the late late winner just capped the day brilliantly. I can’t believe that people were leaving before the end when we were throwing everything in but the kitchen sink – serves them right. I agree with you about Santon – what a player he is going to be. And a word of praise for Abeid; for one so young a really disciplined and tidy performance. I think we may see quite a bit of him in the next few weeks while Tiote is away.

  • Mick

    Totally agree with Mal about people leaving before the end, it isnt just Saturday either, its every game, Ive seen people streaming out when weve even been about to take a free kick at goal !! Back to Saturday though and having seen a bit of magic from Ben Arfa WHY oh WHY not stop just that extra couple of mins just in case lighting struck twice ??Well it did so serves yourself right, youve probably missed one of the best individual goals ever seen at SJP so maybe next time you might think twice eh !!

  • Paul Soulsby

    I wish the minority of tossers who feel it acceptable to boo at the drop of a hat, or a point, would just stay away. The team did not deserve too be booed off at half time, nor after the Swansea game, any bugger booing this team can’t have watched Big Sham and JFK’s teams very often. These deluded individuals need to get a grip and recognise  the constraints placed on Pardew by the owner, personally I think he’s doing a great job in the circumstances.