Anichebe on the mark to keep Toffees on the march
Newcastle Utd 1 Everton 2
It is relegation form and it is difficult for their supporters not to fear the worst now that their top goalscorer has abandoned a ship that has been showing signs of sinking for weeks.
Nobody thought Newcastle would go down in 2009 when they began the year hovering just above the drop zone, but they did. Those scars have barely healed on Tyneside and Everton opened up old wounds with a typically gutsy, powerful performance which will have delighted their manager David Moyes.
Everton are still good enough to finish in the top four this season, something Newcastle's manager Alan Pardew rather foolishly thought Newcastle – despite failing to strengthen his squad – had the ability to do in the summer.
Newcastle supporters can be among the most demanding in the country to play in front of if they perceive standards are slipping, but they also know when their team need a lift.
This one was one of those occasions.
From the moment the teams lined up for the pre-match handshakes they sang the name of the man in the club's hallowed No 9 shirt, Papiss Demba Cisse.
Cisse initially stole the limelight from Ba when he arrived from Freiburg 12 months ago, scoring 13 goals in his first 15 games, but he has been playing in his shadow this season, forced to play wide on the right, after Ba demanded to play through the middle.
The two did not get on off the pitch and increasingly they struggled to play together on it, Ba dominating the central positions that Cisse has made a career running into.
If anyone is going to benefit from Ba's move to Chelsea it is Cisse and the home crowd knew it. He repaid their vocal display of affection after just 72 seconds.
Tim Krul sent a long free-kick into the area, Ameobi headed it down and Cisse pounced, heading the ball over Tim Howard and then watched it drop delicately into the goal behind the Everton goalkeeper.
It had been noticeable in recent weeks that, when Ba scored, only a couple of team-mates celebrated with him, normally his fellow French speakers, and even then with little relish.
It betrayed the growing resentment in the dressing-room towards a player who, when push came to shove, had not wanted to be a Newcastle player since the summer, when his agents failed to get him the move he hankered for.
Tellingly, the entire Newcastle team, with the exception of goalkeeper Krul, sprinted over to congratulate Cisse.
They know better than anyone that, if Newcastle are going to avoid getting dragged into relegation trouble, they need his goals.
That header was only Cisse's sixth of the season and Newcastle were briefly exhilarating, riding a wave of euphoria. It did not last. Everton gradually took charge in midfield and the contest shifted in their favour.
Krul had already produced one magnificent save to keep out a Leighton Baines free-kick that was heading for the corner of the net but he could do absolutely nothing about his second set-piece two minutes before the break.
The free-kick was harsh on Newcastle as Fabricio Collocini did not appear to foul Marouane Fellaini. From 30 yards, Baines applied power and some extravagant swerve to the ball as it moved right then away to the left.
Krul had no chance.
The equaliser had been coming. Newcastle started the second half strongly with Sylvain Marveaux the creative spark. One run at the heart of the Everton defence almost presented Ameobi with a chance, but the disguised final pass was just behind him.
Minutes later the same two combined, Marveaux chipping the ball into Ameobi's path, but his stabbed finish trickled wide.
Nikica Jelavic picked up the ball in space on left, drifted past Coloccini too easily and centred the ball for Anichebe to tap in from six yards. The striker (left) suffered a career threatening leg break on this ground three years ago and this must have felt like closure.
It was hammer blow to Newcastle.
With time running out, Santon went one-on-one with Howard, but the American saved with his legs. (© Daily Telegraph, London)