Brilliant Ben Arfa goal keeps Newcastle's Champions League dream alive
Newcastle 2 Bolton 0
Monday 09 April 2012
Hatem Ben Arfa produced a moment of genius to maintain Newcastle's unlikely bid for Champions League qualification.
The Frenchman lit up a disjointed display by his side with a breathtaking 73rd-minute run and finish to finally break Bolton's stubborn resistance.
Papiss Cisse made sure of the win seven minutes from time by converting substitute Shola Ameobi's cross - his 10th goal in nine appearances for the club - to take the Magpies to 59 points for the campaign, their best Barclays Premier League haul since the 2005-06 season.
But the visitors headed back across the Pennines knowing it might have been so different had either Chris Eagles or Mark Davies managed to beat keeper Tim Krul in an impressive start to the second half.
They remain deep in relegation trouble, in sharp contrast to their hosts, whose dreams of European qualification refuse to die.
The respective ambitions of the two sides ahead of kick-off could hardly have been in starker contrast with Newcastle intent on sustaining an unlikely charge for Europe and Bolton simply looking for the points they need to extend their Premier League stay.
But with the locals having arrived hoping for a free-flowing attacking display from their side in the wake of Friday night's battling win at Swansea, what they got was a drab, joyless opening 45 minutes which would have delighted Wanderers boss Owen Coyle.
Cisse, who has put better defences than that boasted by today's visitors to the sword in recent weeks, was subdued as he and Newcastle's flair players failed to fire in the face of a determined rearguard action.
In addition, recalled veteran Bolton frontman Kevin Davies kept the returning Fabricio Coloccini and central defensive partner Mike Williamson busy throughout.
It said much about the opening period that the only half-chance came with 38 minutes gone, and that the result of an error by visiting keeper Adam Bogdan which, fortunately for him, went unpunished.
French midfielder Yohan Cabaye had a brief glimpse of goal with 15 minutes played when the ball broke to him on the edge of the box after full-back Danny Simpson's charge had been halted, but he fired high over.
Sam Ricketts saw a long-range shot deflected wide by Coloccini four minutes later, but Krul and Bogdan were never stretched as Bolton managed to frustrate their hosts.
Krul had to get down well at his near post to collect Martin Petrov's 31st-minute strike, but there was never any real chance of the ball eluding his grasp, and his opposite number was similarly unworried by Coloccini's curling effort from distance two minutes later.
The only moment of note came seven minutes before the break, and perhaps fittingly, was something of a comedy of errors.
Bogdan got to Ben Arfa's inswinging free-kick under no pressure, but contrived to punch it straight at team-mate Ricketts with the ball, to his immense relief, flying wide of his unguarded goal.
There was almost an audible sigh of relief when referee Mike Jones blew for half-time with the home fans hoping the restart would bring much, much better.
In the event, it very nearly brought much worse.
The home side, who had replaced utility man James Perch with Shane Ferguson at the break, found themselves pinned back inside their own half after Williamson had been penalised for a foul on Darren Pratley.
Newcastle dealt with the initial free-kick, but simply could not clear their lines, and Krul had to make a fine block after Eagles had controlled a bouncing ball inside the box, side-stepped Coloccini and gone for goal left-footed.
But the Holland international was mightily relieved to see Petrov's 53rd-minute cross elude Pratley after it had flown past him inside his six-yard box.
Mark Davies was unable to make the most of Kevin Davies' 64th-minute cross to allow Krul to block his scuffed shot, and Pardew opted to make a further change.
He withdrew Demba Ba, who was not best pleased, and replaced him with Ameobi, but it was Ben Arfa who sent a 68th-minute free-kick wide of Bogdan's left post.
But the France international was not finished, and won the game with a run and finish which oozed class 17 minutes from time.
Ben Arfa picked up the ball from Cabaye deep inside his own half before setting off on an unstoppable run which saw his slip away from Mark Davies and in between central defenders David Wheater and Tim Ream before nonchalantly poking a shot past the advancing Bogdan.
The game was over 10 minutes later when Ameobi turned Ream wide on the right and sent a cross to the far post where Cisse, who looked suspiciously offside, tapped home his now customary goal.
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