Cisse and Ben Arfa put on a show

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Sports News - RICHARD RAE at The Hawthorns

PAPISS CISSE be­lieves lan­guage dif­fi­cul­ties make it hard for him to com­mu­ni­cate with his New­cas­tle team-mates, so it seems rea­son­able to spec­u­late just how pro­lific he will be once he makes English the fifth lan­guage he has mas­tered. Par­tic­u­larly if Hatem Ben Arfa is on the pitch.

Ben Arfa, work­ing in com­bi­na­tion with Cisse and Demba Ba, was un­playable, so much so that the game was ef­fec­tively over af­ter 35 min­utes. Cisse scored two of the goals to make it five in six games for the Sene­gal in­ter­na­tional.

But both were made by Ben Arfa, and the young French mid­fielder scored him­self with a run that so con­fused the Al­bion de­fend­ers that not one dared make a chal­lenge be­fore it ended with a fin­ish deep in­side the Al­bion penalty area.

The win leaves New­cas­tle level on points with Chelsea in fifth, and such was their po­tency it seems per­fectly pos­si­ble they will main­tain the pres­sure on the London side un­til the end of the sea­son. When it was pointed out to Alan Pardew that the Mag­pies were only five points be­hind Spurs in fourth, the New­cas­tle man­ager shook his head, how­ever.

“I don’t think so. There are a lot of games left and I don’t think we’ve got the strength in depth. We lost [Fabri­cio] Coloc­cini to­day, and that’s go­ing to be a big blow to us go­ing into the Liver­pool game, but it’s a game that all of the North­east can look for­ward to.”

Well, Ty­ne­side, cer­tainly, es­pe­cially with Ben Arfa in this form. New­cas­tle were not the same team at the back af­ter Coloc­cini went off at half-time, prompt­ing a reshuf­fle which gave West Bromwich the op­por­tu­nity to es­tab­lish a foothold in the game.

That, how­ever, was af­ter New­cas­tle had ripped them apart on the break in the open­ing pe­riod. The man­ner of the first goal, which saw Jonas Gu­tier­rez play­ing in Ben Arfa on the left and the un­marked Cisse turn in the re­sult­ing low cross, set the tone, although Ben Arfa still had much to do six min­utes later when he picked up Cisse’s pass a few yards in­side the Al­bion half. Not fac­ing a chal­lenge made it eas­ier, though such was his close con­trol, the tim­ing of a tackle would have had to have been per­fect. The third came shortly af­ter the half-hour, Ba’s back­heel giv­ing Ben Arfa the room he needed to pull the ball back for Cisse to beat Al­bion goal­keeper Ben Foster with a first­time shot.

Al­bion’s head coach Roy Hodg­son reshuf­fled and the Bag­gies at least be­gan to com­pete. They pulled a goal back through Shane Long af­ter con­fu­sion be­tween New­cas­tle goal­keeper Tim Krul and de­fender Mike Wil­liamson, but as Hodg­son ad­mit­ted it was an ex­er­cise in dam­age lim­i­ta­tion, and any chance of a come­back ended when James Mor­ri­son had to be car­ried off with all three sub­sti­tutes al­ready used.

Hodg­son ac­knowl­edged his side had been out­played: “The qual­ity they showed was far su­pe­rior to that which we showed.”

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