Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Ba, Cabaye & Jones own goal condemn Manchester United to comprehensive defeat

The Senegal striker's first half volley set the home side toward a famous victory over Sir Alex Ferguson's side who fell to their second consecutive league defeat

EPL - Newcastle United v Manchester United, Demba Ba and Anders Lindegaard
Getty Images
Manchester United suffered their second consecutive league defeat thanks to fabulous strikes by Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye before Phil Jones' own goal sealed an end toNewcastle’s 18-match winless run against the champions on Wednesday night.
Ba, playing his final game for the Magpies before jetting off to the Africa Cup of Nations for Senegal, proved a handful throughout the game and his instinctive 33rd minute strike left the home fans in raptures.

Manchester United, still reeling from their loss to Blackburn, struggled to create obvious chances and found the situation worse minutes after half-time following a fantastic free-kick from Cabaye that all but sealed the points. The champions did muster a chance through Wayne Rooney but ultimately Jones’ own goal ended their chances of keeping pace with league leaders Manchester City.

Alan Pardew chose to mix his team selection following news that former Red Devils player Gabriel Obertan would be consigned to the bench with a toe injury. Ryan Taylor was moved to the right wing, with Davide Santon starting at left-back. Pardew opted for a more physical frontline, pairing Shola Ameobi with Ba.

Reacting to their shock loss at Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson chose to rotate his goalkeepers for the third time in three games, recalling Anders Lindegaard following the suspect performance of David de Gea against Blackburn. Rio Ferdinand recovered from injury to take his place alongside Jones at centre-back, meaning Michael Carrick could occupy his preferred central midfield role. Rooney was also given a start as Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez were relegated to the substitutes' bench.

Newcastle started brightly, intending to impose their physicality on the champions, no more evident in the build-up to their opening chance of the game. Cheikh Tiote battled his way through three challenges in a congested middle before feeding the ball to Taylor on the right wing. His low cross to Ba seemed perfect but the Senegal striker unusually fluffed his lines, completely missing the ball from 10 yards out.

Lindegaard, the giant Dane who entered the game having yet to concede a Premier League goal, was called into action minutes later. Taylor’s mandate required him to cross early and often and his second significant ball into the United box was chested down by Ba to Cabaye, but his left-footed strike was gathered safely by the keeper.

United's first chance arrived after 10 minutes following captain Patrice Evra's diligent work on the left, dispossessing Danny Simpson before sliding the ball right to Nani. The Portuguese winger had drifted to the middle and fired his shot at Krul but the Dutch goalkeeper beat the ball away and was fortunate the rebound fell just short of Rooney.

The in-form Dimitar Berbatov came closest to breaking the deadlock as the Red Devils began to dominate possession. After a fluid midfield move that started with a deceptive pirouette by Rooney, Evra’s cross found the Bulgarian and his header was deflected by Santon onto the foot of Krul’s right-hand post.

In the 25th minute referee Howard Webb caused controversy, denying Pardew’s side a penalty after a tangle of legs between Ferdinand and Ba. The striker appeared to reach the ball first before tumbling under a clumsy challenge by the England defender but Webb turned down the appeals much to the disbelief of manager, players and fans.

Newcastle’s grievances were short-lived as merely six minutes later they opened the scoring. There was little guile involved as Tim Krul’s long set-piece was nodded on by Ameobi and into Ba’s path. The striker, boasting 14 goals from his last 14 Premier League games, reacted to the lay-off with a hooked volley that flew up and over Lindegaard and into the side netting, taking Newcastle into half-time ahead.

Overpowered | United's defence had no answer to the likes of Ba

Both sides emerged for the second half unchanged and the threatening Ba again caused United’s defence problems. This time, picking the ball up in a deep area, his run at the defence forced Jones to attempt a tackle he was always second favourite to win.

The resulting free-kick, positioned in line with Lindegaard’s right-hand post, was presided over by the Frenchman Cabaye. His firmly struck effort from 25 yards had just enough swerve to take the ball over the United wall and fractionally under their crossbar. Lindegaard’s desperate leap to his right was in vain and the Sports Direct Arena erupted once more.

United’s reaction came slowly as Pardew’s side kept things tight. However, immediately following Ferguson’s decision to replace Berbatov with Welbeck, the Manchester club almost pulled a goal back.

Nani’s cross was flicked on by Welbeck and fell to Rooney who prodded goalwards, but Danny Simpson’s fine reflexes helped him to clear off the line with his knee. The rebound was squared by Welbeck to Park but another fine defensive touch deflected the ball to safety.

Newcastle looked to close the game out, using Ba as their outlet. The Senegalese striker was a constant thorn in the side of the United defence but when he lost possession, the central midfield partnership of Cabaye and Tiote provided a robust second line of defence.

When that was breached though, Krul had to be on hand to save the Magpies. He was called into action minutes from the end following a misdirected header by Fabricio Coloccini that almost played in substitute Javier Hernandez but Krul reacted sharply to pounce on the loose ball.

As the game looked like it was drifting to a conclusion and Ba, to much adulation, was relieved of his on-pitch duties, a comical own goal developed.

Krul’s wind-assisted long ball caused confusion between Jones and Lindegaard. As the Dane ran around Jones to collect the ball, the defender panicked and saw the ball ricochet off his hip and into the unguarded net, ending any faint hopes of salvaging a recovery.

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