A little bit of Demba Ba magic ensured Newcastle drew level at Goodison Park on Monday night. It was a match straight from the storybooks – one which showed that, despite the fact that the Premier League’s riches ruling the roost, it’s still the best reality TV on the planet. By ANT SIMS.
Everton walked out at Goodison Park with wins over Manchester United and Aston Villa in the bag, and they certainly weren't short on confidence. The evening started off with a heart-warming tribute to the 96 people who lost their lives in the Hillsborough disaster. “Merseyside United,” read the big screens, as those who died were remembered and applause rang out across the ground, drowning out the sound of “He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother” blasting over the PA. The two mascots were wearing Everton and Liverpool kits, with numbers that made up 96 printed on the back.
It was a heart-warming start to a match that was about to send pulses racing. It took just two minutes for the match to get cracking, with Nikica Jelavic having a goal disallowed. Some crafty footwork from Marouane Fellaini slid the ball across to Jelavic who poked it in, but the offside flag went up, while the striker went crashing into the goal post.
Everton continued to impress and push forward, adopting attack as the best form of defence, while Newcastle looked lost in their tapestry of short bursts. It didn't take long for the hosts to gain the lead as Leighton Baines put them ahead 14 minutes into the match. It was Steven Pienaar who combined with Baines for a lovely little one-two before the ball was elegantly tapped into the net from 12 yards out. Everton continued to dominate the first half, and Newcastle looked dead and buried; hopeless and bogged down by relentless pressure from the Toffees.
Newcastle was lucky to be just down 1-0 at the break. The lack of magic prompted a change at the start of the second half, with Demba Ba coming on from the bench for Sylvain Marveaux. The change paid its dividends almost immediately, with Ba scoring just four minutes after coming onto the pitch. Yoham Cabaye showed amazing poise in constructing the perfect pass to Ba, who was just ahead of his marker. With his time limited, he needed just one touch to fire the ball past the diving keeper and poke it into the corner.
By this time, Newcastle looked better, and the game reignited as both sides pushed for a winner. It was Everton who got the break in the 60th minute, when another goal was disallowed for offside.
Back and forth, the two sides fought anybody who had fallen into a slumber – and then, like a bang in the night, the elephant in the room made an appearance in the form of Victor Anichebe, who poked the ball over the line. It ricocheted from the top post and bobbled over the line, only to be cleared away. A cataclysmic series of events followed as Ben Afra tried to break away, but the referee blew for a foul, when it seemed he should have allowed advantage to be played. Outrage came spilling from all corners of the globe, as debates surrounding goal line technology were sparked all over again. The elephant was, so to speak, stomping around the room spraying everybody with water, while fans and commentators repeated the same old argument: goal line technology needs to be brought into professional football, stat.
Under normal circumstances, that would have been that, and the debate would have been about the standard of refereeing in the Premier League versus the need for goal line technology. But it wasn’t a normal night at Goodison Park.
With just two minutes left to play, Anichebe got his goal, with Pienaar again feeding the ball forward and into the back of the net with ease.
Just to ensure everybody stayed awake well past their bedtimes, Ba made sure he made a statement, too: his was about starting on the bench, as he pulled another goal back for the Magpies.
Four minutes of injury time came and went, and so ended the Monday night football, with a serious rush of blood to the head and heaps of renewed excitement for the season ahead. DM
Photo: Newcastle United's Demba Ba celebrates his goal against Everton during their English Premier League soccer match at Goodison Park in Liverpool, northern England, September 17, 2012. REUTERS/Darren Staples