A Demba Ba hat-trick sees Newcastle United cruise to a 3-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers and maintain their 4th place in the Premier League.
On paper we should be the better team this season, but Blackburn have a record at St James’ Park second only to Manchester United in the Premier League, so the superstitious amongst us might have had cause for concern.
A disclaimer before I start: I watched the match on a very shaky internet feed and missed bits of it here and there, so if my match report contains glaring holes, you know why.
The Toon analysts in the dressing room had clearly been doing their homework as they appeared to have identified Givet as the weakest link at left-back in Blackburn’s defence and almost from the off we started attacking down the right, which was to become a familiar pattern for a lot of the game with Obertan making a lot of the running.
We dominated well for 25 minutes before the first goal, with Ba, Best and Gutierrez having chances on goal only to put them over the bar. Blackburn’s David Hoilett was the only player to give us any real signs of trouble when he dribbled easily past Gutierrez into the box and it took a great piece of defending by Coloccini to counter the danger.
At around the 25 minute mark, Coloccini put in a long pass to Best on the left. Best crossed to Ba in the centre who executed a fine turn and planted the ball in the net at pace. 1-0.
Less than 5 minutes later Demba Ba had his second goal of the day. In move that started from a free kick after Gutierrez was tripped just outside the box, Steven Taylor headed the ball across the box and Demba Ba pounced to head it into the goal. 2-0.
Obertan was still making most of the running up the right and he managed to play in Ba again who could have taken a shot but instead laid it off to Best who fluffed it. Gutierrez had a chance too after being played in by Ba but a Blackburn defender got a foot to his on-goal shot.
We looked fairly dominant but then when Ryan Taylor gave the ball away in Blackburn’s half, Martin Olssen crossed to David Hoillet who took the chance to smash the ball into the top of the goal. 2-1.
Both best and Obertan has chances before the half was out but the first 45 minutes was to end at 2-1. Newcastle had much the better of the half and were probably feeling somewhat miffed to have to have conceded a goal.
The second half started much the same as the first with Obertan and Simpson continually getting the better of Blackburn up the right, but it was Blackburn who had the first real chance of the half when Olssen’s sliding shot bounced off the top of the crossbar and behind the goal much to Tim Krul’s relief.
On about 54 minutes we more or less put the game to bed. Tiote drifted a cross into the area, Ba headed it towards goal and Best charged forward to see it into the net. It took the replay to ascertain whose goal it was and it turned out that Best hadn’t touched it so it was a hat-trick for Demba Ba. 3-1.
Blackburn were furious that the goal stood but for a while I couldn’t understand why. I thought they were originally claiming that Robinson was fouled but they were actually complaining that Dann was fouled by Best, but the referee was having none of it and booked Olssen for his persistent complaints. Looking at the replay, I personally thought it was a lot of fuss about nothing – Best may have laid a hand on Dann but it was trivial.
The decision put the Blackburn players in a grumpy mood anyway and they then proceeded to foul their way into the referee’s book with Olsson, Lowe and Nzonzi picking up yellow cards in quick succession for cynical fouls.
Obertan was still finding a lot of space down the right and he managed to cut in for another shot but missed. When Obertan starts finding the net I’m sure he will chalk up a few goals himself this season – he manages to carve out plenty chances for himself.
At close to 70 minutes Blackburn made our job even easier when Olssen received his second yellow card for a foul on Best and was sent off.
Obertan and Simpson contrived to get a cross into Demba Ba but he couldn’t finish it and a few minutes later Yohan Cabaye hit a cracker, although unfortunately he hit it directly at Paul Robinson in the Blackburn goal.
In the 74th minute we brought off Ba and brought on Ben Arfa for his first Premier League appearance for nigh on a year. Immediately he was in the mix and crossed a ball to Best that he probably should have taken a shot at himself.
Gutierrez scuffed a shot wide and then Best made a great run, found himself in a good position, took the ball, turned and shot … only to miss.
On the 84th minute we substituted Gutierrez for Marveaux and him, Ben Arfa, Best and Obertan had more chances but we couldn’t make it four.
3-1 was the result and, despite Blackburn’s protestations over the third goal, I think we looked solid and dominant enough to be worth of the result. Blackburn boss Steve Kean doesn’t agree with me though and said:
“The third goal was a big turning point. We felt there was a foul on Scott Dann in the goal.
“Olsson tells the referee that there was a foul on the defender and gets booked. Salgado and Givet were both injured but had to stay on the pitch.
“If that decision had gone the other way, we could have got something from the game.“
Whereas our own Alana Pardew had this to say:
“We controlled the game and I think they fact they went down to 10 men doesn’t do us justice. We were magnificent all day. We could have won by more than three.
“Leon Best was as good as Demba Ba and he could have scored two goals.
“With Ramadan, Ba had a difficult, slow start and he had a couple of cameos to get him up to speed. But he helped us control midfield today.
“Peter Lovenkrands should have come on but it was a good game for Ben Arfa, the crowd were in good voice. He deserves that. He’s got some work to do to get back into the team.
“We have spent a lot of money on our squad. I wanted to change our style of play – I thought our passing and movement was excellent.“
Overall, a good day out for the Toon. Onwards and upwards I say.