Cisse and Ben Arfa put on a show
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.”