Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Ameobi’s penalty rescues Newcastle

Shola Ameobi marked his first start for Newcastle since December 21 with a goal as the Magpies held Sunderland to a draw in an enthralling Tyne-Wear derby.
A frantic end-to-end game could have gone either way, but Ameobi’s penalty earned his side a point after Steed Malbranque fouled Steven Taylor.
Djibril Cisse had scored the opener, the Frenchman beating the offside trap to find the net at the second attempt. Both sides hit the woodwork chasing the win, but a draw was the right result. And a point apiece did little to ease either side’s worries about the drop, especially Newcastle, who are now just a point above the bottom three with matches against Everton, Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Aston Villa still to come this season.
It was a frantic encounter, played in front of a red hot St James’s Park crowd, which included Magpies owner Mike Ashley, who was in attendance for the first time since September.
Tyne-Wear derbies are rarely tame affairs, but even lofty pre-match expectations that this would be a dogfight of a match were surpassed.
Both sides relied heavily on tenacity and determination, with the touch paper well and truly lit in just the second minute when a late challenge on Magpies keeper Steve Harper by Anton Ferdinand prompted a shoving match that underlined the fierce rivalry between the two sides.
But the match was not short in quality either and after Ameobi and Kenwyne Jones had efforts blocked, Richardson drew gasps from the home crowd when his floated free-kick evaded everyone and struck the far post.
Harper, Newcastle’s new number one keeper thanks to Shay Given’s impending departure for Manchester City, had little chance with that effort, and he was beaten again when Jones struck the rebound goalwards, only for new boy Kevin Nolan to clear off the line. However, Harper proved an able replacement for Given, and the hosts had him to thank when he turned Cisse’s cross-come-shot over the bar minutes later.
That came after Andy Carroll had struck the bar at the other end, his header from Jose Enrique’s cross looping onto the top of the woodwork, but when Cisse grabbed the opener just after the half hour it was reward for some impressive counter-attacking play from the visitors.
Dean Whitehead was the creator with a looped pass which found Cisse in space, played onside by Fabricio Coloccini, and the French striker finished at the second attempt after Harper had parried his initial effort.
Newcastle responded with Carroll blazing narrowly high and wide of the Sunderland goal, but it was not until after half-time that the hosts really began to trouble the Black Cats defence.
George McCartney had to be alert to clear a goalbound header from Sunderland teammate Danny Collins over the bar, then referee Howard Webb’s brave – and correct – decision not to award a spot-kick when Damien Duff tumbled over Ferdinand’s challenge denied Newcastle a golden chance to get themselves back on level terms.
The equaliser was not long in coming, though, and it was not without controversy as Taylor stepped across Malbranque in the box and went down under the Frenchman’s innocuous challenge.
Ameobi blazed the resultant penalty home but Newcastle needed a stunning last-gasp challenge from the impressive Sebastien Bassong to deny Jones at the other end, before Richardson powered a free-kick over moments later.
In a frantic finale both sides went for broke, Taylor heading straight at Marton Fulop, Ameobi contriving to miscontrol with the goal at his mercy six yards out for Newcastle, and Reid blazing over when well placed for Sunderland.
The best chance of the lot fell to Michael Chopra, who broke free of the Newcastle defence but inexplicably attempted to square to Jones instead of shooting, and Andy Reid curled wide with practically the last kick of the match.
So, both sides had to settle for the draw, extending Newcastle’s winless run to eight matches and making it just one win in seven for Sunderland.

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