The Soccer Desk

First Goal, First Victory for Newcastle

Newcastle-Fulmham

Hatem Ben Arfa put on a one man offensive show for most of the afternoon as his goal in the 86th minute lifted Newcastle United over Fulham 1-0 in front of 46,000 of the Toon faithful at Saint James’ Park.  The shot provided Newcastle with their first goal and first victory of their 2013/14 Premier League campaign.  Three matches in and back to back cleans sheets have given the Magpies four points in exchange for their lone goal.

Both offenses played sloppy football in the first half.  Newcastle came out determined in the second half, led by Ben Arfa who sparked the attack.  Yohan Cabaye made his season debut at the 66th minute to a mixed chorus of boos and restrained applause from a home crowd bitter at the midfielder who chose to sit out the first two matches because the mere thought of a transfer to Arsenal had rendered him, “mentally unfit to play.”  Pure applause followed Loic Remy, Newcastle’s sole summer signing, who made his season debut in the 74th minute.  (A calf injury sidelined Remy for the first two matches.)  However, it was the man who played in all three matches that made the difference.

Newcastle dominated the final hour of play.  A Pappis Cisse header into the crossbar nearly gave the Magpies the lead.  Then, four minutes from time, Ben Arfa, with two Fulham defenders on him, showcased his footwork and laid the ball out for a rifle of a shot just outside the box that Fulham keeper David Stockdale could only turn his head to watch as it hit the back of the net.

By the final whistle Newcastle took 24 shots, with nine on goal.  Fulham managed a mere five shots with two on goal.  Toon boss Alan Pardew looked relieved as he left the pitch, as well he should.  A good day with good news finally arrived in Newcastle.  Remy looked sharp.  The defense, led by Fabricio Coloccini and goaltender Tim Krul, has shown they can hold their side of the field.

While things took a turn for the better on Saturday, Toon fans suffered a disappointing Monday as the transfer window slammed down hard, leaving Newcastle on the outside looking in.  Monday left the Magpies as the only Premier squad who haven’t made a permanent summer acquisition.  Beside Loic Remy on a season long loan, Newcastle only acquired Joe Kinnear, a director of football who could not direct any players through the Saint James’ Park gate.

St_James_Park_NUFC_01

At least they got their gate back.  Toon fans responded angrily last season to the renaming of the park to Sports Direct Arena.  The powers-that-be not only returned the name, they restored a gate that had been rusting away on a Northumberland farm.  The gate, that will once again greet fans as they arrive at the stadium, remains Newcastle’s only permanent summer addition.

(Photos courtesy of The Evening Standard and The Mag)