Newcastle: Newcastle moved into joint-fourth place in the Premier League thanks to an emphatic 3-0 win over Stoke City at the Sports Direct Arena that saw the home side almost completely dominate the game. The first half saw a midfield battle that was dominated by the home side thanks to the superb efforts of Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye. Both Newcastles goals came in the first 20 minutes, with Cabaye heading in from a Ben Arfa cross, and then turning provider for Papiss Cisse to stroke home a second.
Stoke at times could not cope with the home side's superb attacking play, and quickly conceded a third through Cabaye again, and with their midfielders unable to overcome the dominance of their Magpie counterparts, the result was never in doubt for Newcastle. The home side made one change from their 2-0 victory over Bolton in their last match, as Cheick Tiote returned to the midfield after a hamstring injury in place of James Perch. Meanwhile, Stoke made three changes from their 1-1 draw with Aston Villa, with Tony Pulis giving Peter Crouch a start up front.
The game began cagily, with the home side enjoying the majority of the early possession, and it was the Magpies who had an early chance as Demba Ba blazed a shot over the crossbar from outside the penalty area in the fourth minute. The away side then had a similar half-chance through Matthew Etherington, who likewise put his shot well over the crossbar. Stoke then had a glorious chance to take the lead in the tenth minute through Jonathan Walters. A diagonal ball from the right found Peter Crouch, who beat Mike Williamson easily in the air and fed Walters, but the Irishmans shot went wide when he could so easily have scored.
However, it was the home side that made their possession tell with their first meaningful chance of the game in the 14th minute. Hatem Ben Arfa sent in a superb cross from the left-hand side, and after Papiss Cisse's header cannoned off the crossbar, it was tucked away by Cabaye to give Newcastle a 1-0 lead. The Magpies looked confident, and quickly doubled their advantage just four minutes later. Cabaye combined well with fellow Frenchman Ben Arfa, and his superb through ball found Cisse, who stroked the ball home calmly to give the home side a 2-0 advantage inside the first 20 minutes.
The following passages of play were dominated by Newcastle, who were controlling the midfield with a great deal of ease thanks to the work of Ben Arfa and Cabaye. The away side tried to counter this by bringing on Dean Whitehead into the centre of midfield, but his introduction made little difference to the game. Meanwhile, Peter Crouch was isolated up front for the Potters, and after Newcastle's Davide Santon saw a skidding shot saved by Asmir Begovic, the first half ended with the home side looking comfortable and leading 2-0.
At the very beginning of the second period, it was clear that Newcastle were still confident of adding to their tally, and Demba Ba could have scored within the first minute but his attempt to control the ball in the penalty area was smothered by Begovic. This momentum continued for the home side with no answer forthcoming from Stoke, and in the 53rd minute Cisse thought he had added a third. After a shot from Ba was spilled by Begovic, his Senegalese strike partner placed the ball into the net following in the rebound, but was ruled to have been in an offside position.
However, the home side would not be denied a third goal, and it was Cabaye who added his second of the afternoon just three minutes later, having been set up by some good trickery by Ben Arfa and Ba. Cabaye passed his shot into the far corner of the net, and made the score 3-0 to Newcastle to the delight of the home fans. Meanwhile, Stoke were struggling to see any of the ball, and were unable to create any chances of their own, and the home side could have added a fourth in the 67th minute as captain Fabricio Coloccini saw a header from a corner go just wide.
From then on, Newcastle looked instead to defend their clean sheet and catch the away side on the counter-attack, and Stoke struggled to mount any serious attacks of their own. There were no clear chances until the 86th minute, when Cheick Tiote had two venomous shots on goal just saved by Begovic. Those efforts were the last of the game, and the emphatic win saw Newcastle move into the Champions League places, three points ahead of fifth placed Tottenham Hotspur, but having played one game more.