Demba Ba fires Newcastle past Norwich
Premier League, Sports Direct Arena - Newcastle United 1 (Demba Ba 19 ) Norwich City 0
Demba Ba grabbed a first-half winner as Newcastle United beat Norwich City 1-0 at the Sports Direct Arena in the Premier League.
Newcastle took the lead with just under 20 minutes on the clock through Ba and the hosts could have went to the interval with a two goal advantage but Papiss Cisse blasted a first-half stoppage-time penalty well over the bar.
Norwich remained neat and tidy but were frustrated by a Newcastle side willing to sit deep for large swathes of the second period before hitting their visitors on the break.
Having rung the changes for the Europa League clash against Maritimo in Madeira on Thursday, there was a more familiar feel to the Newcastle starting line-up as the Magpies welcomed former manager Chris Hughton and his Norwich team to the Sports Direct Arena
Cisse returned to the starting eleven following an illness while Yohan Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez and Ba were all back in the starting XI as Alan Pardew served the final game of his ban for pushing linesman Peter Kirkup in the opening day win over Tottenham.
The Canaries have earned three draws since an opening-day drubbing at Fulham, but goal scoring remains a problem and Hughton elected to start last season’s top scorer Grant Holt on the bench with Steve Morison leading the line in a 4-4-1-1 formation.
Norwich began in the ascendancy with Wes Hoolahan utilising the space between midfield and defence to good effect and it was the Irishman who had the first chance of the game. He stole in unmarked but his diving header was blocked for a corner.
And it was the substitute who was at fault when Ba broke the offside trap with just under twenty minutes gone to put the hosts into the lead. Hatem Ben Arfa collected the ball in midfield and slotted the ball behind the Norwich back four as Turner failed to step up and the Senegalese international rolled the ball under the advancing John Ruddy.
Despite going behind, Norwich remained composed, and were to fashion another decent headed chance following a swift passing move down the wing. This time a Robert Snodgrass header was cleared off the line by Mike Williamson with 28 minutes gone.
Bar that chance, Norwich - as has been the story for much of the season - failed to fashion the clear cut chances their play deserved
Newcastle, in comparison, were far more incisive and with Ben Arfa the fulcrum they looked to put their visitors to the sword. The Frenchman almost carved out another one-on-one situation but this time for Cisse; however he failed to read the through ball and it ran through to Ruddy.
The Canaries continues to be neat and tidy but it looked like they were to pay for a lack of cutting edge when referee Neil Swarbrick adjudged Steve Morison to have shoved Williamson in the back to award Newcastle a penalty on the stroke of half-time.
Cisse took it but his stuttering start to the season continued as he blazed it high over the bar. To be fair, it was probably justice as the award of the penalty looked to be particularly harsh.
With that last ditch first-half reprieve, the Canaries began the second period in the ascendancy.
Hoolahan, who had looked dangerous throughout the first-half, fashioned an early second-half chance for the visitors when he picked up the ball in space between the Newcastle midfield and defence before threading it through to Andrew Surman. Steve Harper was alert to it though and came out to save at the feet of the midfielder as he looked to dink it.
With another 25 minutes of the half to pass without his side fashioning a clear goal scoring opportunity, Hughton turned to last season’s leading goal-scorer Grant Holt and while he offered more of a physical presence Newcastle looked content to sit deep and then break as the game entered the last 10 minutes.
And Ba almost had the opportunity to guarantee all three points with 82 minutes on the clock but having broken the offside trap his effort lacked any real pace and Ruddy claimed.
Hughton introduced Simeon Jackson to the fray for the closing minutes and despite a frantic finish the Canaries were denied the draw that their performance probably deserved.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Hatem Ben Arfa (Newcastle United) – great through ball for the goal and he was the creative spark for Newcastle United all afternoon.
NORWICH CITY: Ruddy 7, R Martin 7, Barnett 7, Bassong 5, Garrido 7, Snodgrass 7, Howson 6, Johnson 6, Surman 6, Hoolahan 7, Morison 6. Subs: Turner 5, Holt 5, Jackson 4.