Comparisons with the last old-style teenage centre-forward to emerge through the Everton ranks will probably not sit kindly with manager David Moyes, but the manner in which Victor Anichebe plundered his two goals against a disappointing Newcastle defence yesterday had more than a little of Wayne Rooney about it.
Born in Nigeria but raised in Crosby, Anichebe, 18, has already declared his intent to play for the country of his birth and his fortunes yesterday contrasted sharply with those that befell the current Nigerian No 9, Obafemi Martins. While the game remained competitive for long periods of the first half, a shocking penalty miss by the in-form Martins just before the interval, and the wasting of another glorious chance for a potential equaliser, helped condemn Newcastle to their worst defeat of the campaign. How Newcastle manager Glenn Roeder must have wished his striker could have shown the same poise and single-minded approach as his teenage countryman.
In the ninth minute, Mikel Arteta's short corner allowed Phil Neville to swing in a cross which Joseph Yobo headed goalwards, sparking an almighty scramble in the Newcastle area. As visiting defenders failed to deal with the ball, Anichebe was afforded the time to get in a weak, miscued shot which seemed to travel in slow motion past Shay Given's desperate dive. Then, after Martins' two big misses, in the 58th minute, Anichebe struck his second of the day when Arteta's corner was headed on by Andy Johnson for the youngster first to head against the bar and then to convert his own rebound from inches out.
"He got a rollicking at half-time because I didn't think he had done enough in the first half and he was happy with just one goal," said Moyes of Anichebe. "That's the way to shut your manager up - get a second one! He was there, Johnny on the Spot, and the boy is improving all the time. He has the pace and the power and he has shown recently that he is keen to improve. He is asking us to look at his game, he wants to watch some of the top centre-forwards, like [Chelsea's Didier] Drogba, to see how they play. He's a young boy who I think will continue improving."
After Anichebe's opener, the game hinged on Martin's 43rd- minute miss from a penalty awarded for Leon Osman's shove on Kieron Dyer. Emre was involved in an altercation with Joleon Lescott but Dermot Gallagher restored order and Martins then cleared the crossbar by yards. Worse followed in the 54th minute when Tim Howard pulled off a superb save from James Milner's strike and Martins, about to head the equaliser into an open goal, was pushed out of the way by team-mate Steven Taylor. Four minutes later, Anichebe struck his second and the rout was completed in the 62nd minute when Arteta's corner picked out Neville on the edge of the area and his mis-hit shot looped over Given and into the Newcastle goal, his first goal in over four years.
"I like Phil but I didn't like him at that moment," said Newcastle manager Glenn Roeder who could also bemoan the first-half loss of hamstring victim Peter Ramage, who has joined an extensive injury list at St James' Park. "He shot with his right foot and somehow knocked it in with his left - that's something unique but it summed up our day."