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A Hatem Ben Arfa strike five minutes from time handed Newcastle United a 1-0 win over Fulham at St James' Park. The winger's curled effort from the edge of the penalty box brought Newcastle their first victory of the season, and was a fitting reward for their efforts in a game they dominated.
Alan Pardew made a number of changes from the League Cup win over Morecambe in midweek, with Shola Ameobi keeping his place after scoring at the Globe Arena while captain Fabricio Coloccini returned.
Yohan Cabaye was also included in the hosts’ squad for the first time in the 2013-14 campaign having been previously excluded, while QPR loanee Loic Remy joined him in the dugout. For Fulham, Darren Bent made his first Premier League start for the club since his loan switch from Aston Villa while midweek goalscorer Adel Taarabt dropped to the bench.
Newcastle began the brighter of the two teams, with captain Coloccini seeing a header cleared from close range by John Arne Riise after four minutes. But the game began to even out as time progressed, with Bent and Mathieu Debuchy having efforts on goal for the away and home sides respectively.
Alex Kacaniklic had a glorious chance to put the visitors ahead on the half-hour, when he latched on to a long ball from the back. However, he was unable to get clean contact and was dispossessed by the alert Debuchy. Papiss Cisse headed wide after a cross from Ben Arfa before the latter fired over in the last five minutes of the half, however, Fulham emerged unscathed to go in goalless at the break.
It took until 61 minutes for the first chance of the second half, with Ben Arfa striking a dipping effort at David Stockdale before Ameobi glanced a header wide a minute later. Riise hit back for Fulham after 66 minutes when he forced a save from Tim Krul with a free-kick but Newcastle resumed control of the match in the aftermath.
Substitute Yoan Gouffran subsequently failed to connect with a Ben Arfa cross with 79 minutes gone, as the hosts continued to apply plenty of pressure. And with five minutes of normal time remaining, their constant creation of chances finally brought a goal, as Ben Arfa cut in from the right-hand side of the box to fire brilliantly home.
Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew: "[The win] is important for our fans, it has been a tough week. We are only three games into the season and we have had three clean sheets. We knew we needed a goal today, and we were nervous first-half again as you could imagine but the second-half really well and we showed the power we have which we hadn't had with Yohan and Remy coming on the pitch.
"Suddenly we looked like we could get a bag of goals and their keeper was unbelievable today otherwise it would have been two or three. There was no problem second half, we could of had three or four, Remy came on and we suddenly looked like we doubled out threat, out of respect to our other strikers, he is a class act.
"It was a question of a little more tempo and pressure on the ball as Fulham can be clever, with Berbatov dropping into midfield so we put more pressure on the game and introduced more attacking options and that got us over the liner and I am just delighted for our fans as this is a massive club and trust me we are in good order.
"Hatem had a day today where I said to him you are never going to send me grey as I already am but I am going bald. Some of his play was wrong, he made wrong decisions but then he made a couple of right ones, he is such a maverick and he is difficult to manage when it comes to structure of your team and it goes to him and you’re not sure what he is going to do, but one thing I do know is that he has exceptional talent and he has opened up the game a couple of times and then he has hit the winner with an absolute pearl of a hit."
Fulham manager Martin Jol: "I don’t think it was a tough afternoon. I think we could have done a lot of damage today and got some points on the board. In the first half we looked good in midfield, we played in a different style but the only thing we could be critical of was the lack of a cutting edge. We had three or four situations in front of goal where we miscontrolled it
“We deserved at least a point. I was pleased with my defenders and the midfielders. Bent was always playing off the shoulder. We could have done better and created more.”
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