Premier League – Newcastle thump Spurs
Newcastle United lifted themselves clear of the relegation battle with an emphatic 4-1 win over Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
Operating in a 4-3-3 formation, Tottenham took the lead thanks to a Darren Bent header midway through the first half, though gaps were appearing in the midfield and defence, and Nicky Butt pulled Newcastle level on the stroke of half-time.
Obafemi Martins rounded things off ten minutes from time on the counter-attack to see Newcastle move into 12th position, nine points clear of the drop zone.
The tactical move, together with Newcastle’s usual unsteadiness in defence made for a fraught opening 15 minutes.
Habib Beye stunned the home supporters into silence after just five minutes when he seized upon a poor touch from Jonathon Woodgate and rattled the crossbar with a vicious rising shot.
The visitors were on the attack again moments later as the ball fell to the unmarked Joey Barton on the edge of the area, though Robinson was this time equal to the shot.
Spurs were stung into action, and may have hurt Newcastle on the counter-attack had Bent opted to play in the onrushing Dimitar Berbatov through the centre, though instead he opted to cut inside and shoot from distance, leaving Steven Harper with a comfortable save.
Three minutes late Woodgate saw a header cleared off the line, from a fine O’Hara corner.
The Newcastle keeper could do nothing about Bent’s opener soon after though. The former Charlton man rose high above Abdoulaye Faye in the centre of the area and glanced Steed Malbranque‘s cross inside the far post.
Three minutes later Bent’s power was causing the Newcastle defence problems again as he skipped past Steven Taylor in the penalty area, only to run the ball wide and allow Beye to close him down. Beye’s clearance fell to Berbatov on the edge of the area, though he lashed over with an ambitious first-time shot.
Spurs’ adventurous formation frequently left them a man short when defending, and this eventually cost them just as the game seemed to be ebbing along quietly until half-time. Woodgate missed a simple clearance, Geremi fed Butt from the right, and the midfielder struck a low shot across Robinson and in at the far post.
Newcastle began the second half much in the same way as the first, though they made their forward ventures count.
After Barton had set alarm bells ringing round White Hart Lane by grazing the post with a low drive from outside the area, Geremi put the Magpies ahead.
Dawson shoved Martins needlessly in an aerial tussle, and Geremi curled his free-kick past Robinson. Having set his wall to cover the near post, as is the norm, only Robinson will know why he failed to cover the other side.
Ramos responded by belatedly switching back to 4-4-2 and replacing Robbie Keane and Malbranque with Adel Taarabt and Lennon. Spurs began to rain crosses in on the Newcastle area, but with their side in the lead, Steven Taylor and Faye began to grow in confidence, and won the aerial contest with Bent.
The Spurs keeper partially atoned for his earlier error with a fine stop from a Mark Viduka effort from the edge of the area, though the game was effectively over as a contest moments later.
The excellent Martins bustled his way past O’Hara on the right flank, and Viduka let the Nigerian’s pass roll through to the onrushing Owen, who finished with aplomb.
At the other end, Taarabt struggled to provide the incision Spurs needed, while Lennon once again failed to display any of the magic he produced frequently when breaking into the Spurs team two seasons ago.
With the hosts sending everyone apart from substitute Teemu Tainio forward for set pieces, there was always the chance for Newcastle to hurt them on the break, and so it happened in the closing stages, when Butt robbed Lennon of possession on the left flank and immediately fed Martins.
The Nigerian skipped comfortably past Tainio, and kept his composure to finish clinically past Robinson and trigger general hysteria amongst the travelling support.
The Spurs fans let their displeasure be known while heading for the exits before the final whistle, though any strong criticism of Ramos for employing a different system of play would be harsh. With European football guaranteed and nothing to play for in the League, now is the perfect time for the Spaniard to experiment.
As for Kevin Keegan, this is unquestionably his finest moment since returning to the club in January. While not yet mathematically safe from relegation, the presence of five sides between them and the drop zone means they are all but safe.