Everton bounce back in exemplary fashion
Newcastle Utd 1 Everton 2:Newcastle United’s bleak midwinter continues. Alan Pardew’s injury-hit side have now lost nine of their last 11 Premier League game and despite there being much to applaud about their contribution to a brilliantly exhilarating match, life after Demba Ba may not be overly easy.
Everton’s valiant win enhanced their Champions League prospects and all that after, in the second minute, their defence misread Tim Krul’s long punt and with Johnny Heitinga and Sylvain Distin missing the ball, Papiss Cisse directed a looping header into the back of the net.
“Are you watching Demba Ba?” chorused the Gallowgate end. The Senegalese had high-tailed it on a flight to Heathrow for talks with Chelsea after the London club triggered the £7million release clause in his contract.
Pardew had replaced his leading scorer with Shola Ameobi – who it seems will not now be playing for Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations after all – in a fluid 4-2-3-1 formation which saw Cisse stationed wide on the right.
Belying their recent struggles, Newcastle started brightly, regularly forcing Everton on to the back foot. David Moyes’s side could easily have swiftly equalised, though, when a typically swerving Leighton Baines free-kick goal-bound until Tim Krul somehow managed to divert it away for a corner.
As the first half progressed Everton started to find their range but were betrayed by Marouane Fellaini’s heavy touch which enabled Davide Santon to make a vital interception after Steven Pienaar’s square pass found the Belgian in a highly dangerous shooting position.
Sylvain Marveaux’s glorious pass then found James Perch whose header rebounded off a post before Africans Cup-bound Cheik Tiote’s follow-up shot was blocked.
Everton however can never be underestimated from set-pieces – and especially not when their left-back is taking them. So it proved shortly before half-time, when Baines’s equalising free-kick, delivered at vicious high velocity, dipped and curved, thoroughly deceiving Krul who had taken a costly step to his left.
If neutrals thought Moyes’s side deserved to be level, Newcastle fans felt the award of the free-kick, for Fabricio Coloccini’s and Tiote’s attempts to prevent Fellaini collecting Tim Howard’s clearance, was rather soft.
Krul then saved superbly from Pienaar after the South African had met Baines’s beautifully weighted pass.
Newcastle upped a tempo which Vurnon Anita played a big part in setting. When Ameobi shot wide optimism crept up but in what is becoming depressingly familiar fashion, it was soon dampened.
Moyes’s decision to replace Steven Naismith with Victor Anichebe proved inspired because almost immediately after coming on the forward was on hand to shoot beyond Krul after Nikica Jelavic added to a fine move by drifting past Coloccini and delivering the ball to the striker’s feet.
Cisse was then denied a headed equaliser courtesy of a combination of desperate defending and Howard. But Krul rescued the home side when Baines’s cross rebounded off Mike Williamson’s heel and the goalkeeper tipped a potential own goal over the bar.