The reverse fixture to the opening day ended in the reverse result; it was well deserved but hard fought though. Newcastle’s January supermarché sweep certainly seems to have squirted some air back into their deflating balloon of a season and they’ll prove a much tougher nut to crack in 2013 than they were in the latter half of 2012.
All of Debuchy, Gouffran and Sissoko looked good, it’s a shame for them that they were let down by one of the old guard at crucial moments, want away skipper Coloccini flooring Dempsey for the free-kick that gave Bale his first after 5 minutes and then attempting to stop the Welshman with only a powder-puff challenge as the latter powered clear for his second with 12 minutes of normal time left. In between Gouffran’s deflected shot gave the Geordies a fortunate equaliser, albeit one the rest of their first half performance merited.
AVB’s decision to leave the fresh off the plane Adebayor on the bench and give the equally jet-lagged but exponentially more willing Dempsey another run out in a position that doesn’t suit him looked justified early on as we poured forward. Holtby’s quick distribution and Bale and Lennon’s movement caused all sorts of problems, we managed only the one goal however and the away side came more into the game. Gouffran’s goal had been preceded by a bad miss by Cisse but they created no more openings before half-time despite the increasing influence of Cabaye and Sissoko.
Personally I thought we’d see Adebayor for Dempsey at the interval but instead Villas-Boas made a tactical switch moving Bale into the middle and Holtby wide. It worked to an extent as we regained the initiative and pushed Newcastle back. Dempsey’s lack of mobility and speed was still a hindrance and when Adebayor did eventually make his appearance, it surprised everyone that it was in place of Holtby rather than the American. Dempsey moved to the left where he looked far more comfortable and when Assou-Ekotto came on we looked properly balanced at last.
Bale’s second came and a third, fourth and even fifth could have followed as the away team committed players forward in search of an equaliser and we hit them on the break. A leveller nearly arrived when the ball broke for Ameobi but Lloris proved himself the decisive French influence on the game by getting enough on big Shola’s prod to deflect it wide.
A one man team? No, not at all but, at the risk of stating the bleeding obvious, the man in question is in tremendous form. Every team needs leaders and why not have one that leads by example?
Aaron Lennon had an excellent game as did Parker and Dembelé. Dawson lost more than he won against Cisse and Sissoko but the defence was generally solid and Lloris confident behind them. Man of the match was Bale of course but special mention should be made of AVB whose tactical change and substitutions firstly enabled us to regain lost ground and then force the win.
Two more French dates to come before we return to league action, then it’s Hammer time.