Newcastle turned up the intensity in their challenge for a place in next season’s Champions League competition after they capitalised on yesterday’s draw between Arsenal and Chelsea.
Meanwhile, at the bottom, Blackburn boosted their hopes of beating the drop with victory over Norwich, increasing the pressure on Wigan and Aston Villa who failed to win
Newcastle already knew of Chelsea’s dropped points at Arsenal before they kicked off at home to Stoke, and the Magpies put four points between themselves and the Blues with a 3-0 victory courtesy of goals from Yohan Cabaye(2) and Papiss Cisse.
It took just 14 minutes for Alan Pardew’s men to strike at St James’ Park, and the goal was down to the wonderful work of Hatem Ben Arfa. Dropping his shoulder, the imaginative Frenchman passed his marker before crossing for Cisse, whose header hit the bar and bounced out for the grateful Cabaye to nod home.
Four minutes later, the lead was doubled and this time Cabaye turned provider, sliding a classy through-ball beyond Stoke’s stationary defenders. Cisse latched onto the pass and simply had to beat the keeper, which he did left-footed for 2-0.
In what has turned out to be a terrific season for Newcastle, this was one of their best performances as they continued to turn on the style, Cabaye curling a beauty for 3-0, and the scoreline could have been greater by full-time.
Chelsea failed to close the gap on third-placed Arsenal and left themselves with plenty to do if they are to qualify for next season’s Champions League as they were held 0-0 at Emirates Stadium.
Ahead of their Champions League semi-final second leg at Barcelona, Blues boss Roberto Di Matteo made eight changes from the side that beat Barcelona on Wednesday. Fernando Torres started in the absence of the injured Didier Drogba, while Petr Cech, Gary Cahill and John Terry were the only survivors from midweek.
In an end-to-end game, Arsenal were left to rue a host of missed opportunities as they dropped points for the second successive league game. Robin van Persie’s effort from Theo Walcott’s curled free-kick edged wide as the Dutchman failed to steer it inside the far post, and then Van Persie’s free-kick shortly before half-time found an unmarked Laurent Koscielny, but the Frenchman’s header rattled the crossbar.
As the clock ticked towards full-time Van Persie fell in the penalty area under pressure from Cahill, but the referee waved play on. Chelsea had their chances; Terry mistiming his header and Torres caused problems for the Arsenal defence, but neither side was able to find the net in a lively London derby.