If you were to say that this fixture was approached with a great degree of trepidation and foreboding by Newcastle fans, you might be accused of wearing rose colored glasses. Newcastle took the (shortened) pitch at the Britannia Stadium today having not beaten the Potters in the top flight since 1985 and sporting a 0-2-2 record since the advent of the Premier League. Matchup problems and common sense would sure dictate that Newcastle's unbeaten run to start the season would come to an end. Someone forgot to tell the Magpies.
Jonas played a tremendous reinforcement role with Ryan Taylor, getting bodies in front of crosses repeatedly and not allowing any easy access to the box. Yohan Cabaye played much deeper on defense than has been his custom as well, making up for the absence of Cheik Tiote. Even still, Newcastle were not lacking for offensive ideas, and a brace from Demba Ba put Newcastle fully in the driver's seat going in at halftime. Honestly, but for Asmir Begovic, it should have been more.
In the run up to the match, Alan Pardew was quoted that he was perhaps too interested in what Stoke was doing and not enough what Newcastle were doing in last year's 4-0 reverse at the Britannia, but it would have to be said that AP has game planned specifically for Stoke this time, and beautifully. Jonas played very withdrawn on the left side, sometimes almost a twin to Ryan Taylor, while Obertan played an advanced right side. Cabaye and Guthrie combined to do a pretty decent Cheik Tiote impression, and the counter-attacks from clearances were a thing of beauty.
The talking points of the second half are going to be the twin penalties awarded by Mike Dean-- and I do mean twin penalties. On the Stoke penalty, Demba Ba got into the back of Peter Crouch just barely, and Crouch sold it completely. The Newcastle penalty was nearly identical as Huth got in the back of Leon Best in almost exactly the same way, but Leon Best did not flop as he was trying to play the ball still. In the end, the penalties were a wash, Demba Ba got his second hat-trick for Newcastle United and the Mags were good value for their 3-1 win on the day.
I have to suppose that it would be a cop out to select the entire team as Man of the Match on this one, eh? Very well-- I offer you:
- Demba Ba-- Although the culprit on the penalty awarded to Stoke, he did come away with 3 more goals. Isn't that an automatic 10 rating in FIFA on the PlayStation?
- Jonas-- Completely selfless performance from Jonas today-- he nearly never got across the half-way line but accepted the role scripted for him by Pardew and performed it perfectly. With Stoke's dump it to the right corner strategy, his commitment to his assignment cannot be understated in importance. Pennant never had a clear alley to cross, and it was mainly due to Jonas.
- Yohan Cabaye-- but not for his offense/creativity for once. He played a central version of the Jonas role in lieu of Cheik Tiote. You didn't hear his name as much as you would normally expect, but his work box-to-box prevented any kind of adjustment of tactic toward the middle. . . ok-- they would never have done, but he did the job defensively and on secondary clearances.
- Alan Pardew-- Unconventional to add the coach on a MotM discussion, but bear with me: If your first reaction is that you want to give MotM to the entire team-- doesn't that come down to the gaffer? The game plan was scripted beautifully and executed beautifully. We blocked so many crosses, defended the long throws almost without incident and positionally played the ball perfectly all night. We faced up to the ball-holder, clogged passing lanes and every player seemed to know what every other player was doing defensively. Just brilliant.