independent

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Ba on double as Figueroa's early bath paves way for Toon stroll

Newcastle 3 Wigan 0

Newcastle United's Demba Ba celebrates scoring the opening goal against Wigan last night

THREE points and three goals for Newcastle, but it was the one red card which proved to be the turning point.

When Demba Ba cleverly teased the ball into the box after 13 minutes, Papiss Cisse and Maynor Figueroa gave chase. There followed the gentlest of shoulder-charges by Figueroa on Cisse, almost like a butterfly alighting on a branch. It seemed to be an innocent collision.

Cisse fell to the floor and, to Wigan's frustration, referee Mike Jones pointed immediately to the spot. He then had little choice but to dismiss Figueroa. It was such a huge call, coming so early in the game, that the referee had to be totally convinced.

Poor Figueroa cut a disconsolate, and rather confused, figure as he trudged towards the tunnel.

Behind him, Ba was jump-starting Newcastle's season following a dispiriting November. Wigan's 'keeper, Ali Al Habsi, guessed Ba's intentions correctly, diving to his right, but still could not reach the quick-moving, expertly despatched ball.

As Ba celebrated his ninth Premier League goal of the season, Roberto Martinez sought an explanation from the fourth official, Neil Swarbrick. Rancour continued to sweep through Martinez's players and Jean Beausejour was cautioned for dissent.

The game was all but over as a contest six minutes later as Davide Santon charged down the left and had his powerful shot parried by Al Habsi. The 'keeper failed to force it sufficiently far wide and there was Ba, playing the poacher, becoming the first Newcastle player to score 10 or more Premier League goals in consecutive seasons since Alan Shearer in 2001-'02, 2002-'03 and 2003-'04.

The best goal of the night came with 20 minutes remaining as Gael Bigirimana controlled the ball, worked it on to his left foot and then sent a wonderful curling strike past Al Habsi.

It was some way to record his first senior goal. The statisticians at Opta immediately tweeted that he was the first player from Burundi to score in the Premier League, making it the 87th nation to have found the mark. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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