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New-boys bring feel-good factor back to Tyneside
Final Score: Newcastle United 3 Chelsea 2
THERE was something reassuring for home supporters about the way Newcastle United's players celebrated victory over European champions Chelsea.
By the time the dynamic Moussa Sissoko had struck the sweetest of injury-time winners there had already been plenty of extremely satisfying moments for Tyneside to savour.
Whether it was Demba Ba's early withdrawal with a broken nose, the outstanding performance of new midfielder Sissoko or an ability to cause Chelsea plenty of problems, the Magpies returned to the sort of standard Premier League opposition had come to expect last season.
What this 3-2 victory over the Blues also showed was that, despite the addition of five further first team players from across the English Channel to an already French-filled squad, concerns about a negative impact on team spirit appear to be unfounded.
If it was not enough for Newcastle fans to see Sissoko mark his match-winning goal by charging for the dug-out and jump for joy with every member of the match-day squad except for goalkeeper Tim Krul, there were more refreshing scenes after the final whistle.
Where locally produced Steven Taylor would normally end such a memorable win by leaping high off the ground in front of the Gallowgate, this time he was not the only one playing up to the fans.
While most of the players stayed around to savour the atmosphere and applaud the fans, Sissoko and Yohan Cabaye – two of the best three players on the pitch along with Chelsea's Juan Mata – went on their own lap of honour.
The feel-good factor is back at St James' Park and the influx of new signings appears to have brought it back. Two wins from two and the latest of those was achieved despite falling behind with 29 minutes remaining.
“Sometimes you don’t know exactly what you’re getting (when you're buying players from another country),” said Pardew. “Players tell you ‘yes, he’s a good character, he’s this and that’.
“We asked Cabaye what they’re like, but you never know until they walk in. And they’ve been outstanding. All of them who have come in, are really nice characters.
“And one thing that’s important, was evident against Chelsea, is that the stereotypical view is that French players lack fight and that isn’t true. We were 2-1 down and up against it but showed a bit of fight. Hopefully that buries that one.”
Of the new arrivals only Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran, who was effective on the left, made home debuts and big defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa emerged as a late substitute to help see out the final seconds.
Having only just sampled the feeling around the club in the last couple of weeks they must be wondering what the fuss had all been about. They had joined a team which had won just two of their previous 18 games, but Newcastle have now won back-to-back league fixtures for the first time this season.
There is suddenly six points separating Newcastle from the relegation zone and – after this Saturday's trip to Tottenham – they have winnable matches with Southampton, Swansea, Stoke and Wigan on the horizon.
Pardew said: “You can pick a side and you can have a belief in the players but you can also go out and think ‘hmmm, have we got enough out there’ regardless of the rhetoric of the manager or the prep that you’ve done.
“And this season we’ve had a bit of that going on. Jonas Gutierrez was the one you could see that in against Chelsea and one or two others. Even Davide Santon looked stronger. That comes from an inner belief that the side has got the strength and a technical ability to win games.”
It was Gutierrez who put Newcastle ahead four minutes before half-time. He looked brighter and sharper than he has this season after being asked to start on the right to accommodate Gouffran on the left.
And when Santon's perfectly weighted delivery floated in to the area Gutierrez moved ahead of the slow-moving John Terry and glanced a header inside Petr Cech's bottom left.
That was Rafael Benitez's cue to end a frustrating St James' return for Demba Ba. Instead of earning a penalty – or a goal – minutes before the opener all he ended up with was a broken nose from Fabricio Coloccini's high boot.
There were chances at both ends, but Newcastle deserved the lead. Chelsea's sluggish start, however, was soon forgotten after the restart when Frank Lampard became the first player to reach double figures in ten consecutive Premier League seasons.
After chesting down Ashley Cole's pass, he moved the ball from out of his feet before unleashing an unstoppable drive from 25 yards high into Krul's net nine minutes in the second half.
And then when Branislav Ivanovic's low cross was laid off by Fernando Torres for Juan Mata to curl a beautiful left foot shot in to Krul's top right corner it looked like Chelsea would go on to win comfortably.
But Newcastle's fighting qualities, even with the disruption of so many new arrivals in the squad, shone through after making the most of a fast-moving counter-attack 22 minutes before the end.
When Papiss Cisse turned on half way he tempted Terry in to a mistimed tackle. Gouffran was sent through on goal, with the powerful sight of Sissoko charging alongside him. When Cech stopped the initial shot, Sissoko was ideally placed to side-foot the leveller.
From that point Newcastle were comfortable again. The gifted Cabaye's influence grew once more, but it was Sissoko who made sure he became an instant hit with the Geordie fans.
Left-back Santon, again better offensively than defensively, burst in to the box in stoppage time and picked out the former Toulouse midfielder lurking just outside the box. Sissoko pounced on the pass and struck delightfully low and beyond Cech – sparking joyous and satisfying scenes.
Will there be more of the same in the weeks ahead? With the magic of Monsieur Sissoko around there is every chance.
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