At some point, to use the cliche, you might have to run out of superlatives to describe the wonder that has been the 2011-12 Premier League campaign of Newcastle United. After a tremendous undefeated start to the season which the club rode through a "rough patch" during the middle of the season before rounding into the best form that the club has seen in the top flight for many years. With Europe on the line, the club stepped up and calmly dispatched Stoke in clinical fashion.
It is important to note that the 3 points earned today still do not technically clinch 6th place (and guaranteed European football) for United. Somewhere in Newcastle's final 4 matches or Everton's final 5, Newcastle have to gain 1 solitary point on Everton... and given the club's form at this time, you'd have to say that it is unlikely that Newcastle will lose all of their remaining matches while Everton win all 5 of theirs. Stranger things may have happened before, though... so nothing is guaranteed yet. Now that that's out of the way, this business of Stoke.
Stoke's hoofball tactics are always going to unsettle their opponents as it's not something that you see, well, ever... but it seems that the tactics perhaps unnerve the Newcastle fans more than they do the team. Perhaps this is still fueled by our fundamental distrust of our back line (warranted or not). Twice we have faced Stoke this season, twice we have run away easy 3-0 winners.
Eager to prove that their struggles to grab hold of the match versus Bolton their last time out were just down to a quick turnaround over the Easter holiday, Newcastle wasted no time in taking the game to Stoke. It was in the 14th minute that Papiss Cisse struck the crossbar with a tremendously well-controlled header which rebounded to Yohan Cabaye who easily headed past Begovic to open the scoring. Official scoring went Cabaye goal, Cisse assist, and it would be only 4 minutes later that the scoresheet would reflect just the opposite with Newcastle going 2-0 up. It was a moment of transcendent talent and instinct from the Magpies' new number 9 and the man who loves to pull the strings.
With the Stoke back 4 seemingly completely unaware, Cisse flattened a run across the pitch which Cabaye spotted before Cisse broke on the run in the first place, then found with a perfectly weighted ball that Cisse was always going to tuck around the charging Begovic- it was 2-0 up for the Toon and the match was effectively over with 70 minutes yet to play. Reminiscent of the early season form of our dynamic duo of Cabaye and Tiote, they truly dominated the play, and it would be Cabaye who picked up Newcastle's third, delightfully curving in a ball from just outside the box... 3-0 to the Toon going into halftime. As we've perhaps come to expect when we jump out to a first-half lead, we called off the dogs a bit in the second half, but defended stoutly enough to earn our 4th clean sheet in a row for the first time in Premier League history.
If we're being honest, although Stoke would find a way through the back line sporadically throughout the match, they never seemed like scoring, and they never from the word go seemed like ever troubling a Newcastle side that are on the very tip top of their game for this run-in for European football. Tremendous efforts all around today (including Tiote tossing in a couple of hammers towards the end of the match that Begovic did well to save), and Newcastle for now are 4TH PLACE IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE. Savor, enjoy and reload, lads!