Saturday 25 January 2020

Ben Arfa wonder-goalkeeps Magpies soaring


Luke Edwards

There are some games, no matter how dreary, where a single, sumptuous moment of skill is enough to ensure it is never forgotten. This was one of them thanks to the remarkable dribbling ability of Hatem Ben Arfa.

Forget the poor quality of the first half, the fact that Bolton probably deserved more than a defeat and that Newcastle are level on points with Tottenham and, on form, the new favourites to secure Champions League qualification.

You can even put any discussion of Papiss Demba Cisse's 10th goal in nine appearances on hold, because this match belongs to Ben Arfa.

Alan Pardew described it as a "moment of magic", Owen Coyle merely cursed its brilliance, while everyone else struggled to come up with the words to do it justice.

With the ball played in to his feet deep inside his own half, Ben Arfa flicked it with the outside of his boot and spun round in a flash, leaving Sam Ricketts on the floor.

In a split second, the France international was sprinting past Mark Davies and through the heart of Bolton's previously immovable midfield.

Centre-backs David Wheater and Tim Ream probably felt they had the danger covered as they back-pedalled, but they did not.

Ben Arfa's turn of pace took him past Ream, a delicate lifting of the ball with his toe evading the challenge of Wheater, before he poked a shot past Adam Bogdan in front of an ecstatic Gallowgate End.

Some might try to dismiss it as a fluke or a one-off, but Ben Arfa scored a similar goal against Blackburn in the FA Cup in January. He beat more players and evaded more tackles then but, given that this goal transformed a game Bolton were looking the more likely to score in, it felt more precious.

"You don't see many goals like that and there are only a handful of players who could score one," said Pardew, who played down a spat with Demba Ba after the striker refused to shake his hand when he was substituted.

Newcastle made sure of a fifth successive victory -- the first time they have managed that since they last qualified for Europe in 2006 -- when substitute Shola Ameobi turned away from Ream and crossed the ball for Cisse to score.

It was tough on Bolton, who had been doing a fine job in stopping Newcastle, and they should have scored at the start of the second half when Chris Eagles and Mark Davies were denied by Tim Krul. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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