Ben Arfa helps Newcastle edge Spurs
Hatem Ben Arfa stroked home a late winner from the penalty spot as Alan Pardew’s Newcastle rode their luck to get their new Barclays Premier League campaign off to a flying start with victory over Tottenham.
The Frenchman sent Brad Friedel the wrong way in the 80th minute having been hauled down by Rafael van der Vaart, restoring the Magpies’ slender advantage after Spurs had pulled back to level four minutes earlier.
A low-key encounter had sprung into life in the 55th minute when Demba Ba fired his first goal since February to put the home side ahead before Jermain Defoe prodded a 76th minute equalizer at the second attempt.
The late drama proved too much for Pardew, who was sent to the stands by referee Martin Atkinson for a furious response to a touchline incident shortly before Andre Villas-Boas’ men had snatched their equalizer.
The visitors had looked sharper in the first period and were desperately unlucky not to take some kind of lead into the half-time break after both Defoe and Gareth Bale clattered shots against the woodwork.
Defoe was sent through by a neat ball from Jake Livermore in the 33rd minute but fired against the base of Tim Krul’s right-hand post, and three minutes later Bale headed powerfully against the bar from an Aaron Lennon cross.
While Pardew started with his new signings Vurnon Anita and Romain Amalfitano on the bench, Villas-Boas gave Gylfi Sigurdsson his debut and the ex-Swansea man was at the heart of most of the visitors’ attacking moves.
The Icelander was a little unfortunate to be flagged offside in the eighth minute as Spurs started well, the striker getting on the end of Livermore’s first ball into the box where he was thwarted by a brave challenge from Krul.
Steven Taylor swirled Newcastle’s first chance high and wide from a left-wing set-piece, then the Magpies almost took a freak lead in the 22nd minute when Ba hit a weak, bobbling shot that took a touch off Papiss Cisse and almost deceived Brad Friedel.
Krul tipped a Sigurdsson free-kick round the post and Taylor had to be alert to head away the same player’s resulting corner before Tottenham’s best period saw them twice come agonizingly close to breaking the deadlock.
In the last action of the first half, the largely anonymous Cisse headed over, but Spurs were again on top early in the second, Magpies defender James Perch making a superb interception to stop Defoe latching onto Lennon’s cross in front of goal.
But the home side snatched the lead against the run of play in the 55th minute when Danny Simpson’s high ball into the box was only half headed clear by Kyle Walker, and Ba responded with a delicious curling shot high into the net from the corner of the box.
Spurs seemed a little clueless in response, Benoit Assou-Ekotto drilling a long-range effort which was parried by Krul, but the swing in momentum did not placate Pardew, who was sent to the stands on the hour for over-protesting a touchline incident.
Newcastle made their first change in the 70th minute, new boy Anita replacing Yohan Cabaye, but Spurs were almost level within a minute, Defoe bursting through the static rearguard and hitting a low shot which was well parried by Krul.
Spurs grabbed their deserved equalizer in the 76th minute when Lennon crossed into a crowded box and Defoe wriggled free to fire past Krul at the second attempt after his initial header had been parried by the keeper.
But the point only lasted four minutes before Van der Vaart was rightly penalised for tripping Ben Arfa in the left side of the box, and the Frenchman picked himself up to send Friedel the wrong way from the spot.
Jonas Gutierrez almost extended Newcastle’s lead with an ambitious looping effort which Friedel tipped over the bar, while Spurs’ increasingly desperate final forward forays lacked the sharpness to trouble Krul.