Magpies misfire at home to Swansea
Newcastle 1 Swansea 2
Michu set Swansea on the road to victory at Newcastle as the misfiring Magpies slipped to a second home defeat in seven days.
On a day when the home side were prevented from fielding their own big-money frontman Papiss Cisse because of a wrangle with the Senegal Football Federation, the depth of Alan Pardew’s squad was exposed once again.
A team shorn of Cisse, the suspended Fabricio Coloccini and the injured Yohan Cabaye and Jonas Gutierrez once again failed to score in a home game and allowed three points to slip tamely from their grasp.
Last Sunday it was West Ham, this time Swansea were the beneficiaries.
Newcastle had chances Hatem Ben Arfa was denied a spectacular first-half opener by Swans goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel and Demba Ba, who struck in injury time, was guilty of a series of costly earlier misses.
However, the visitors were more than a match for their hosts and were good value for their win, which was secured by Michu’s 58th-minute header and a second from Jonathan de Guzman three minutes from time.
There were boos on the final whistle from sections of the home fans among a crowd of 49,403, with memories of last season’s champagne football increasingly distant amid a run of seven Barclays Premier League games which has brought just one victory.
Cisse, who scored both goals in a 2-0 win at the Liberty Stadium last season, was conspicuous by his absence after Senegal carried through their threat to invoke FIFA’s five-day rule following his failure to report for international duty because of injury.
That, combined with Pardew’s other selection problems, gave something of a make-do-and-mend look to the team and perhaps understandably, they were disjointed.
The system with which they began was nominally 4-4-1-1, but at times, resembled more like 2-1-5-1-1 with right-back Danny Simpson repeatedly finding himself more advanced than winger Ben Arfa, and holding midfielder Cheick Tiote frequently out-numbered as Swansea broke at pace.
Michu, employed behind lone striker Itay Shechter, caused all kinds of problems as the home side struggled to pick him up, and on more than one occasion central defender Mike Williamson was left chasing shadows as a result of the Spaniard’s intelligent movement.
The visitors might have struck the first blow when Nathan Dyer scuffed a sixth-minute shot across the face of goal, and Tim Krul was relieved to clutch Pablo Hernandez’s long-range effort to his midriff four minutes later.
Michu tested the Dutchman from distance with a curling left-footed effort with the Magpies short of inspiration.
However, as Ben Arfa picked up the baton, they gradually started to force their way into the game.
The Frenchman blasted a right-footed effort into the side-netting and delivered a 27th-minute cross which Ba glanced just wide.
But it took a fine one-handed save by Tremmel to keep out Ben Arfa’s fizzing left-footed strike after he cut inside 12 minutes before the break.
As Newcastle pressed forward, the Swans took advantage of the space they left behind them and Krul had to save twice from Shechter in quick succession with his defence in disarray.
But he would have been helpless had Michu managed to hit the target with a 41st-minute header after the Israeli had combined with Hernandez down the left.
Danny Simpson had to get in a vital clearing header after Dyer had caught the Magpies flat-footed with a quickly-taken free-kick after the restart.
Ba scuffed a volley after superbly controlling Davide Santon’s cross on his chest and then Vurnon Anita almost capped good inter-play between the Ameobi brothers when he drilled inches over the top from 25 yards.
The chances were starting to come thick and fast and Ba might have scored twice inside a minute, first sidefooting wastefully wide from Sammy Ameobi’s driven cross and then shooting straight at Tremmel after being played in by Ben Arfa.
But Swansea should really have been in front 10 minutes into the second half when Hernandez broke down the left and squared for Shechter, who took his time, but blasted a right-footed shot over.
Krul had to dive to his right two minutes later to turn away Hernandez’s strike, but there was nothing he could do seconds later when the same man latched onto his poor clearance and crossed for Michu to head firmly into the bottom corner.
Ba headed a 64th-minute Tiote cross towards goal, but without the power to trouble Tremmel, and then could not react quickly enough to direct Shola Ameobi’s driven cross on target three minutes later.
The Magpies were demonstrating little composure in front of goal, and were grateful to see Michu uncharacteristically do the same to miscue Hernandez’s 76th-minute cross wide.
But the sting in the tail arrived three minutes from time when Krul could only parry substitute Danny Graham’s shot and De Guzman smashed home the rebound from a tight angle, making Ba’s late header after substitute Sylvain Marveaux had struck the bar practically irrelevant.