Magic Hatem wins it

Posted by Marc Duffy

Hatem Ben Arfa is congratulated after scoring for Newcastle.GettyImagesHatem Ben Arfa is congratulated after scoring for Newcastle.

Hatem Ben Arfa won Newcastle United their first three points of the season with a late, thunder-bolt of a goal in a 1-0 win against Fulham.

The Frenchman was magnificent, his usual tricky runs and direct play supplemented with more passes and crosses than we usually see from the little magician. His winner, an unstoppable raker past Fulham keeper David Stockdale, was well deserved as Newcastle were by far the more threatening team on the day.

- Ben Arfa ends Magpies' goal drought

It was a strike that was almost worth the 447 minute wait the fans had endured for a league goal at St James Park.

When on song, as he was on Saturday, Ben Arfa is almost unplayable. From the off Fulham tried to cover him with two or three men. Undeterred, Ben Arfa kept looking for the ball and was consistently a threat.

In the first half of the game Newcastle allowed Fulham far too much time on the ball, so much so that pirouetting, forward-pass fearing Scott Parker even looked a threat.

Newcastle themselves looked short on attacking ideas, again. Alan Pardew named an unchanged team from the uninspiring performance against West Ham last weekend and once more the forward pairing of Shola Ameobi and Papiss Cisse offered little.

The home side had their chances though. Fabricio Coloccini almost scored from a header that would have been Newcastle's first from a corner in the league in almost two years. Moussa Sissoko found Cisse with a fantastic pass that the Senegalese striker failed to control whilst at the other end the centre half pairing of Coloccini and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa easily dealt with Darren Bent and Dimitar Berbatov although there were a few hairy off-side trap moments!

The game really swung in Newcastle's direction with the introduction of Yoan Gouffran, Yohan Cabaye (who was booed and cheered in equal measure) and especially Loic Remy.

Remy immediately injected the pace and directness lacking in Shola Ameobi's play and it was Remy's 87th minute cross-field switch that Ben Arfa gathered and smashed home.

All in all, Newcastle deserved their win, although the lack of clear cut chances continues to worry, as does the burden Cisse has to shoulder. He needs some competition for his own sake and for the team's - competition Shola Ameobi will never provide.

This is also the third consecutive clean sheet for Newcastle. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa looked comfortable again after a shaky midweek performance at Morecambe and Colo was outstanding once more. Tim Krul had very little to do for the second league game in a row. It's unlikely suspended centre-back Steven Taylor, who was sent off against Manchester City, regaining his place.

So that's a win in the bag for the Mags and a couple of weeks before their next game - a new face or two might arrive in the meantime, although Newcastle fans won't hold their breath.

Player ratings

Tim Krul - 7 - Little to do, but good save at a vital time from Taarabt.

Mathieu Debuchy - 7 - Looks so much better in these games when Newcastle are on the front foot.

Davide Santon - 7 - Has he been working on his delivery? It looks like it.

Fabricio Coloccini - 7 - Comfortable against two dangerous forwards.

Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa - 7 - See above!

Vurnon Anita - 7 - Neat and tidy once more.

Moussa Sissoko - 8 - Looking back to his best now he's being used properly.

Sylvain Marveaux - 5 - Another anonymous showing from Marveaux.

Hatem Ben Arfa - 9 - Top class showing rounded off with a great goal.

Shola Ameobi - 5 - Didn't offer much.

Papiss Cisse - 5 - Three before Remy's arrival, seven after it. Hit the bar with a header.


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