Mikel Arteta orchestrates Everton's profitable visit to Newcastle

An afternoon illuminated by the continuation of Mikel Arteta's recent Evertonian renaissance was spiced by subplots aplenty.

Mikel Arteta orchestrates Everton's profitable visit to Newcastle If you wanted acrimony, there was the ill-concealed dislike between Kevin Nolan and Victor Anichebe, while the second-half meeting of Cheik Tioté and Johnny Heitinga offered an archetypal clash of alpha males.

Those seeking something more subtle would have warmed to Leon Osman's skills, particularly when applied in tandem with Arteta's. But when it came to bravery, Shola Ameobi's spirited appearance in a facial mask protecting a fractured cheekbone took top marks.

Newcastle began with two right-backs, Steven Taylor and Danny Simpson, effectively doubling up on Arteta who appeared in an unexpected wide role down Everton's left. Undaunted, the Spaniard more than rose to the challenge, torturing Taylor while establishing himself as the creative catalyst.

"Mikel was outstanding, creative, elusive and provided great work ethic," enthused Steve Round, David Moyes's assistant who looked suitably relieved to see Everton atone for their disappointing FA Cup exit.

Newcastle scored first, the fallout from a free-kick permitting Nolan to whip in a cross which Leon Best nodded beyond Tim Howard to boost his goal tally to an extremely respectable six in 10 games. Arteta quickly captured centre stage, featuring in a lovely, defence-bisecting one-two. Osman drifted in from the right and embarked on a surging run before slipping the ball out wide to Arteta. A cute cross with the outside of the Spaniard's right foot was followed by a seamless first-time, bottom corner-bound shot from Osman.

Moyes's side were soon in front courtesy of a free-kick won by – guess who? Arteta let Leighton Baines take that set piece and, although Jermaine Beckford could not make a proper booted connection with the left-back's wonderful delivery, it fell to Phil Jagielka at the far post. All that remained was for the defender to direct an unconventional close-range half-volley high into the net.

Alan Pardew was forced into a rearrangement when the impressive José Enrique limped off, hamstrung. Simpson relocated from right midfield to left-back and Peter Lovenkrands dropped back to that flank, permitting Ameobi's introduction. Lovenkrands's first act, a robust challenge on Arteta, was swiftly followed by the latter's studs making fleeting, yet evidently painful, contact with the Dane's knee in a possible accidentally-on-purpose intervention. After that Lovenkrands, presented minimal bother.

Ameobi had been concerned that the bespoke faceguard which he recently had fitted in the United States would restrict his vision but there seemed little wrong with his sight as he forced Howard into two decent saves early in the second half.

After Everton captain Phil Neville limped off, Heitinga took over alongside Jack Rodwell in central midfield, immediately launching himself into an intriguing battle of the enforcers with Tioté.

Arteta and Osman were still causing Newcastle problems, and Ameobi's unorthodox skill was worrying an Everton side who spurned a fine chance to extend their lead when Louis Saha missed a sitter following yet another Arteta cross.

By now Anichebe had come on for the visitors. It was the striker's first appearance on Tyneside since a Nolan tackle two years ago left him nursing a serious knee injury. Last week Anichebe accepted a sizeable out-of-court settlement from Newcastle for loss of earnings and it did not take long before he again crossed swords with Pardew's captain. Howard Webb acted swiftly to separate the feuding pair before booking them both.

"The referee dealt with it execptionally well," said Round, whose team enjoyed a reprieve when Best appeared to have headed a second goal only to see it disallowed for a push on Jagielka.

"Leon hardly touched him, Jagielka had backed into him," lamented Pardew ,whose side, lacking the injured Joey Barton and Stephen Ireland, displayed commendable determination as they strove to record their first home Premier League victory in a game kicking off at 3pm on a Saturday since August 2008.

"It was a fantastic effort from us," said Newcastle's manager. "But that little bit of quality was missing."

How Pardew must have wished he could have kidnapped Arteta.


RICHARD HOLMES, Observer reader It was a dreadful performance and we were lucky to come away with 2-1. The defence was particularly shaky and it didn't help that a number of players were played out of position. As soon as we can get Barton, Ireland and Ben Arfa back on the field the better. We lacked grit, determination and the organisation that has typified our season under Pardew. Everton were nothing special although Arteta is a quality player, but we were lucky Saha did not have his shooting boots on or we would have suffered a defeat that would have really damaged morale. They seemed to want it more than us which is disturbing.

The fan's player ratings Harper 5; S Taylor 4 (Ferguson 5), Williamson 4, Coloccini 6, José Enrique 5 (Ameobi 6); Simpson 5, Tioté 4, Nolan 6, Gutiérrez 6; Lovenkrands 4, Best 6 (Kuqi n/a)

STEVE JONES, BlueKipper.com This win is a fantastic boon for us after the last few weeks. We were well worth our win but Newcastle were very poor and we outplayed them big time. After our disappointing performance in the Cup in midweek, we were all totally down so to come back and win shows great character. Jagielka, Distin and Osman were outstanding and Saha played well. Osman is a local lad and he comes to the fore when the going gets difficult. I also thought the supporters were outstanding – after that midweek defeat to sell out our tickets for this game was terrific. Moyes is very much a supporter and he had an effect today.

The fan's player ratings Howard 7; Hibbert 8, Jagielka 8, Distin 8, Baines 8; Osman 8 (Coleman 85 n/a), Neville 7 (Heitinga 6), Rodwell 6; Arteta 6; Saha 7, Beckford 6 (Anichebe 6)

To take part in the Fans' Verdict, email sport@observer.co.uk

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Louise Taylor at St James' Park, for The Observer on Saturday 5th March 2011 17.10 Europe/London

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