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Magpies deliver early Christmas present on Pardew's return to Selhurst Park
Final Score: Crystal Palace 0 Newcastle United 3
ON the day Alan Pardew returned to a place he once called home, his Newcastle United players delivered an early Christmas present to Selhurst Park.
Pardew spent four years of his playing career at Crystal Palace where he helped guide the Eagles into the First Division and to an FA Cup final. On Saturday he made his first return to the club as a Premier League manager and the Magpies boss certainly enjoyed it thanks to a performance that will spread plenty of festive cheer across Tyneside this Christmas.
Unlike twelve months ago when his side were struggling at the wrong end of the Premier League table, Pardew will be able to enjoy the coming days’ celebrations knowing his side sit six points off the league summit after 17 games.
A convincing 3-0 win – albeit against a team struggling to get away from trouble – means the Tynesiders have now won six of their last eight games.
They will spend Christmas Day in the top six and go into back-to-back home games against Stoke City (Boxing Day) and Arsenal three days later with a confidence and belief teams are struggling to knock at the moment.
It was a stylish performance that oozed top-six material with Newcastle’s French contingent defying atrocious winter conditions to brush aside a Palace team that have been galvanised since Tony Pulis’ appointment.
Yohan Cabaye shone in the middle once again, but it was performances from the likes of Mathieu Debuchy, Moussa Sissoko and Cheik Tiote that impressed Pardew.
He revealed post match that it was the ‘warriors’ in his side that won the game over his flair players even if a goal from Cabaye and a penalty from Hatem Ben Arfa sandwiched Danny Gabbidon’s embarrassing own goal.
It was the sort of display that has become part of Newcastle’s blueprint this season with their ability to control and stifle teams complimented by some breath-taking attacking play.
And while no one inside the Magpies’ dressing room is getting carried away by their current form, Tiote admits the squad is playing without fear at the moment.
“Yes (we can perform against anyone). When you perform like that, you get more confidence in the team, more belief,” said the Ivorian midfielder, who will be suspended for the visit of Stoke City on Boxing Day after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season.
“We expect to compete against the top teams. Everyone has to do their job. Some players have more quality to pass the ball and to score. My job is to break [up the play] pass the ball to my partners.
“That’s what I do best. At the moment everything is going well and we need to continue doing the same things.
“I think we got a lot of possession of the ball. We played compact as a team. That’s why we won.
“We have to do the same things. We are a few points behind Liverpool. It is not finished yet. We have to work hard every game.
“We have two tough games coming, Stoke and Arsenal. We need to be ready.
It’s too early [to talk about what we can achieve]. We just try to win every game. When the season is finished, we will see.”
Cabaye’s opener came in the 25th minute when his sweeping shot took a deflection off Eagles captain Mile Jedinak and in past Julian Speroni.
It was almost a carbon copy of the French midfielder’s winner at Manchester United with Moussa Sissoko cutting in from the right and laying the ball off to Cabaye.
Gabbidon sliced a dangerous Debuchy cross into his own net six minutes before the break to double Newcastle’s lead, before Hatem Ben Arfa’s 86th minute penalty secured the three points after Jonny Parr brought down Shola Ameobi.
The Magpies have been criticised for their abundance of foreign players recently, but Pardew’s side defied the elements and stereotypes to record their fifth win on the road this season.
Tiote insists the team relished playing in difficult conditions and believes the Magpies do have a chance of emulating their fifth-lace finish two seasons ago.
He said: “Definitely [have a big chance to finish in top five]. Last year we struggled. This year is much much better. When you look at the table I think we’ve got a chance to finish in the top five.
“But we have to do the same things, try to win every game. If we do that we have the chance to be in the top five. It’s going to be tough. Arsenal are top of the league at the moment. They will come to try to win the game.
“The weather was bad. But in our minds we were focused. We know it was going to be a tough game. For a game like this you need to be ready in your head because of the weather. We just came to get the three points. We are happy we won the game. We focus now on the next game.
“I enjoy these conditions. For me it’s perfect conditions because in my role I have to fight, take the ball and pass to my partners. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining. I just want to enjoy my football.”
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