Newcastle United took one-step closer to the unthinkable Champions League, as they defeated an uninspired Stoke City at St. James’s Park. With Arsenal and Chelsea playing out a 0-0 draw earlier in the day, Newcastle could gain ground on Arsenal and pull away from Chelsea. All they needed to do was win, and win they did.
Stoke had their chances early on with John Walters blazing over the bar from six yards out. Indeed, they could have been two-nil up within twenty minutes. However, as much as Stoke pressed, Newcastle responded in emphatic style as they managed to get two goals in the space of four minutes. The first came after a sublime bit of skill from Frenchman Hatem Ben Arfa as he beat Marc Wilson and sent a cross over only for Cisse to head against the bar. Cabaye was positioned perfectly though and managed to head in the rebound from about three yards out.
The Toon’s second goal was almost picture perfect. Cabaye played an sublime ball through for Cisse to make a diagonal run on to, and then our Senegalese Number 9 placed it perfectly beyond Begovic and into the far right corner. Once the second one went in, Newcastle seemed to step up a gear and picked off Stoke at will.
The third Newcastle goal, and arguably the pick of the bunch came out of nowhere as the ball pinged around the edge of the box, and Cabaye sent a right foot curling shot through a crowd and beyond the desperate Begovic. This killed the game off as a contest and epitomised Newcastle’s strong display.
As if the day couldn’t get any better, QPR defeated Spurs 1-0 at Loftus Road which saw Newcastle jump into that coveted fourth place, three points ahead of Spurs.
Personally, I think this season has already been a success, regardless of whether we end up with a Champions League spot or not. But with the season so close to an end, there are many Geordies already dreaming of Champions League football, and I’m not going to stop them. Newcastle haven’t played like this since the days of Sir Bobby Robson, and I bet the former Toon boss is looking down and grinning, willing his team on with the passion and fervour of days gone by.