Monday, 31 October 2011

Stoke City 1 Newcastle United 3: match report

Hat-trick or treat? Demba Ba enjoyed both on a visit to Stoke City, whose fans wrongly believed he rejected them last season. The Senegalese striker silenced the Britannia with a header, a close-range strike and a penalty, sending Newcastle United ahead of Chelsea into third and within a point of Manchester United.

Stoke City 1 Newcastle United 3: match reportBa may have been wearing gloves but his fingerprints were all over this game; not only did he plunder three goals, he worked hard defensively. Such was his over-eagerness to help out in Newcastle’s box that he conceded a penalty, pushing Peter Crouch, and presenting Jonathan Walters with a chance from 12 yards that he took emphatically.

It was always going to take something different to breach Newcastle’s superb defence. If Ba took the Hallowe’en headlines, Fabricio Coloccini deserves huge credit for a near faultless performance at centre-half. In truth, all of Alan Pardew’s players fought hard for the cause.

Newcastle know they face a testing period: Everton visit St James’ Park on Saturday, followed by trips to Manchester City and Manchester United before Chelsea come calling. That run of games will provide a truer test of their ambition but this was impressive, resilient fare.

Newcastle’s ambitions of a Champions League place had been questioned by many, possibly even the Stoke DJ with his spinning of Foo Fighters’ thunderous The Pretender before kick-off. Newcastle certainly looked real contenders, their counter-attacking and Ba’s finishing proving the feature of the first half.

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