Everton had won just one of their last 10 matches away at Newcastle but they put in a fine performance to beat their opponents and make a flying start to the second half of the season in typical fashion. Despite conceding an early goal, the visitors held their nerve and passed the ball about with confidence. Indeed, Everton were dominating proceedings in the midfield and their play could only be broken up by sporadic fouls from the home team. Newcastle have been leaking goals of late and Everton threatened to score but Marouane Fellaini couldn’t quite dig the ball out from under his feet to smash the ball into the back of the net. Everton could smell blood and moments later a lovely Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar combination nearly proved costly were it not for a good save by Tim Krul. The visitors produced some crisp passing and cranked the pressure up on Newcastle, who responded by giving away far too many free kicks in their own half – and it was precisely this that proved to be their undoing. Cheick Tiote was penalised for his challenge on Fellaini shortly before half time. Baines stepped up to take the free kick from 35 yards out and his strike thundered into the back of the net. Everton showed their intent to grab a top-four finish as the substitute Victor Anichebe came on to snatch a winner 30 minutes from time. The Toffees have now taken 20 points from losing positions this term, demonstrating a vital ability to dig deep when the going gets tough.
After some disappointing results over the festive period, Newcastle put up a real fight on Wednesday against a top side. The Magpies have suffered a serious case of bad luck as injuries to Danny Simpson, Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez, Ryan Taylor and Steven Taylor, not to mention the impending departure of Demba Ba, have left them severely depleted. Yet Newcastle put in a solid performance but should have done better in the final third. Papiss Cisse instantly found himself among the goals as Krul booted a kick up field. The Senegalese striker was the only player to anticipate an awkward bounce, which he manage to head home to fire Newcastle into the lead. Games against Manchester United and Arsenal proved that scoring goals isn’t Newcastle’s problem, but they squandered a number of chances. The Magpies hit the frame of the goal in the first half followed by a poor effort by Shola Ameobi, who controlled a magnificent pass from Sylvain Marveaux. There were encouraging signs for the Newcastle faithful, however it is imperative they stop leaking goals.
The Everton left-back produced a stunning man-of-the-match display to help Everton see off Newcastle United and overtake Arsenal in the table. His sublime first half goal was the pick of the bunch and it is surely now a question of when, rather than if, Baines will become England’s number one left-back. There will be no shortage of interest in the defender over the next couple of transfer windows as he has consistently shown that he is a solid defender capable of brilliant link-up play and has an absolutely thunderous left foot. Baines is a top player, capable of walking into any team in the world.
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