Newcastle Utd 1 Portsmouth 0
Sunday November 26th 2006
NEWCASTLE UTD 1 PORTSMOUTH 0
NEWCASTLE UTD: Given, Solano, Taylor, Bramble, Ramage,Milner (Sibierski 45), Parker (Butt 24), Emre,N'Zogbia (Luque 90), Dyer, Martins.
Subs Not Used: Srnicek, Huntington.
PORTSMOUTH: James, Pamarot, Primus, Campbell,Stefanovic (Taylor 46), Thompson, Davis,Pedro Mendes (Kranjcar 71), O'Neil, Kanu, Mwaruwari (Douala 59).
Subs Not Used: Ashdown, O'Brien.
Antoine Sibierski came off the bench to score his first Premiership goal for Newcastle, and the ex-Manchester City midfielder is starting become something of a cult hero amongst the Geordies.
The Frenchman is a handful for opposing defenders, and once again he struck from close to steal the show, just as he has been doing in European games this campaign.
It eases the pressure off Glenn Roeder, not so much because they picked up three precious points, but because United bossed the match from start to finish. Something they have rarely done so far in the Premiership this season.
I don't know what it is with this club, but we always seem to be blighted by injuries. OK, every team suffers, but surely none as much as Newcastle. There have been times this season when Roeder has only not had a striker to pick from, and against Portsmouth he only had THREE defenders, and had to play winger Nobby Solano at right-back.
But rather than hamper the team, at last the players seem to accept the fact, and the last two games have been remarkable. There has been a 'battle against all odds' mentality that has not been there since Sir Bobby's hay-day, and was certainly behind \the first league win at home since August 19.
Portsmouth's lofty standing in the table probably flatters them. Every season we see the unlikely high-flyers, like Wigan last year, Charlton, Bolton and Middlesbrough in previous years. Clubs who gate-crash the Premiership elite party until Christmas, then get sussed out and struggle from the New Year to May. Pompey, like so many others, will be glad to get to the 40pt safety mark (although it didn't save the Mackems in 1997 ... not that we laughed).
United showed enough grit before the break to suggest they are more than capable of addressing their parlous situation, and were quite outstanding in the second half when Pompey couldn't get near them.
Skipper Scott Parker and winger James Milner both limped off with injury problems which will make them doubts for the UEFA Cup trip to Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday evening. But Newcastle never buckled.
Newcastle had the ball in the net on 17 minutes, Obafemi Martins running on to the once again impressive Dyer's through-ball to chip a neat shot over the advancing James. But his celebrations were cut short by an offside flag.
Emre twice went close from distance in the dying minutes of the first half, but David James' only two saves of note came from his own men, David Thompson connecting rather too well with a headed back-pass and Linvoy Primus blasting a clearance against Dejan Stefanovic which almost crept under the bar.
James, looking like a cartoon character from the 1930s with the most bizarre hairstyle, had a busy day.
Charles N'Zogbia and Dyer combined to good effect on the hour to carry the ball from deep inside their own half before the England international found Sibierski, but his shot from a right angle has turned away by James.
Dyer needed treatment after crashing into the advertising hoardings on 65 minutes in a successful attempt to win a corner, and the visitors were fortunate to survive a goalmouth scramble when the ball was played in.
But the deadlock was finally broken four minutes later when Peter Ramage, Martins and N'Zogbia combined at pace down the left for the Frenchman to cross for compatriot Sibierski to apply the finishing touch.
The Magpies threatened to run riot at the minutes ticked away, James denying Dyer twice as well as Sibierski and Emre, but with Pompey risking everything in the search for an equaliser, they had to endure a tense conclusion, including seven and a half minutes of stoppage time, before referee Mark Halsey finally ended their agony.