Emerging from an away game against your fiercest rivals with a point, after playing 65 minutes with 10 men, represents a highly commendable effort. On this basis, Alan Pardew’s Newcastle enjoyed a satisfying afternoon at the Stadium of Light but it could have been even more. It took an 86th minute own goal by Demba Ba, a full hour after Cheick Tiote’s dismissal, for Sunderland to cancel out Yohan Cabaye’s third minute strike and secure a 1-1 draw.
After getting agonisingly close to a victory that would have been against the odds but by no means undeserved given the way the game unfolded, there may be an element of disappointment amongst the Newcastle camp about the final outcome. This could not however be detected in either the celebratory clenched fist Alan Pardew directed towards the travelling Toon Army at the final whistle or his post-match assessment of the afternoon’s events.
“We were the better team before the sending off. At first, I didn’t think it was that bad, but looking at it again, I can’t have too many complaints,” commented Pardew, who remains unbeaten as Newcastle manager in four Tyne-Wear derbies. Three of these have been at the Stadium of Light, which contributes to Newcastle having now only lost once on their last 16 visits to Wearside.
Holding such a record over their primary adversaries is then reasonable consolation for Newcastle at not claiming the three points which would have seen them climb into the top half of the table following a period of indifferent form. A run of one Premier League victory – against Norwich – in seven games since overcoming Tottenham on the opening day of the season has involved a set of mixed performances. Nevertheless, those produced in away draws against Everton, Reading and now Sunderland indicate Pardew’s side are not far away from fully recapturing their excellent form of last season.
Indeed, they did display this in their last Europa League outing, a 3-0 home win over Bordeaux. That victory sent Newcastle top of Europa League Group D and they will now aim to consolidate that position when hosting Club Bruges at St. James’ Park on Thursday night.
The team tasked with overcoming their Belgian opponents – defeated 4-1 in the Pro League by OH Leuvens on Saturday – is likely to be significantly changed from that which drew with Sunderland. Regardless, Pardew will demand the same exemplary attitude and application that has characterised Newcastle’s performances on the European stage this season from whichever players are selected.
One of those could quite conceivably be Papiss Cisse, who played no part at the Stadium of Light and continues to search for the form which saw him explode onto the Premier League scene during the second half of last season. Cisse’s rediscovery of the golden touch to torment Bruge and a win of the comprehension of the aforementioned one against Bordeaux could again have Pardew hailing a perfect Thursday night on Tyneside.
See what the expert tipsters are tipping on OLBG