x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Alan Pardew praises Newcastle United's character

Newcastle United maintained their unbeaten start to the season, twice coming from behind to secure a point against Tottenham Hotspur.

Rafael van der Vaart, right, opened the scoring for Tottenham against Newcastle.
Rafael van der Vaart, right, opened the scoring for Tottenham against Newcastle.

And still there are three. As Newcastle United’s unbeaten start to the season continued, it means they remain in select company. Only Manchester City and Manchester United are also undefeated in the Premier League.



There is another common denominator between the trio, who are alone in denying Tottenham victory. If Newcastle's home draw differed from the emphatic setbacks the Mancunian rivals inflicted on Spurs, it was nonetheless a test passed, and with flying colours.

Trailing at half time, they responded with verve and vigour, scoring a brace of equalisers in a display of sustained substance and spirit. Demba Ba's fifth goal in three games drew them level initially before Shola Amoebi, the second striking substitute to score, secured a point. "It shows the character we have," manager Alan Pardew said.

A fixture that he had described as a benchmark of Newcastle's progress suggested they have a staying power. Their campaign is a triumph of teamwork, but United also possess a resourcefulness that reflects well upon individuals. Ameobi has long been among the more unconventional attackers and, by picking out the corner of Brad Friedel's goal from an awkward angle, he levelled with a goal that owed little to his colleagues.

He is proof that Newcastle continue to find ways of compensating for the absence of a marquee forward. Since Andy Carroll's £35 million (Dh203.3m) move to Liverpool in January, United are yet to reinvest the proceeds in a replacement. The only striking signing is Ba, who arrived on a free transfer. His fifth goal in three games is a fine return and, with the club's managing director Derek Llambias predicting they will break even in the current financial year, the budget-conscious approach is reaping rewards on and off the pitch.

"We have got a team here who have come from different roots to Tottenham players, brought in on big salaries and big fees," said Pardew, whose charges were generally found in France or the Championship. "I think we are going to be dangerous against the top teams."

They are unusual in delivering defensive excellence this season, but a back four who had almost eradicated errors then conceded all too needlessly. As Emmanuel Adebayor galloped clear, Steven Taylor took the strange decision to tackle with his left foot when his preferred right would have been more obvious, and upended the Togolese. One Dutchman faced another from 12 yards, Rafael van der Vaart sending Tim Krul the wrong way.

Back came Newcastle. "Our reaction was great," Pardew added. Jonas Gutierrez surged past a hesitant Luka Modric and Kyle Walker to chip a cross to the back post. The sliding Ba arrived with sufficient velocity that, although Friedel got behind his shot, he could not prevent it crossing the line.

Then the two managers intervened. Harry Redknapp replaced Van der Vaart with Jermain Defoe. Five minutes later, the newcomer collected Scott Parker's pass, turned sharply and picked out the corner of Krul's goal with expert assurance. "If I was that clever, I'd have started with him," said Redknapp, deflecting suggestions it was an inspired substitution.

Pardew, too, turned to his bench. After Friedel repelled long-range efforts from Cheik Tiote and Ryan Taylor, Ameobi defeated the American with a rasping shot.

 

 

"We got into a position to have finished them off," rued Harry Redknapp, who had lost his captain Ledley King to a groin problem after half an hour. "At 2-1, I felt very comfortable. But they made good substitutions. Ameobi looked very lively."

His manager emerged heartened. "We played very, very well against one of the top teams," Pardew added. His emotions were on edge until the end, however: a game of two halves – slow start, stunning finish – could have yet yielded a winner with Defoe and Fabricio Coloccini coming close at either end, but it was right the spoils were shared.

There was little to separate the sides. And given the disparity in resources, that is to Newcastle's credit.

sports@thenational.ae