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Old boy Johnson sinks Newcastle
Published : 03 Oct 2010 20:25:07
WHEN a ten-year-old Adam Johnson joined Newcastle United's Academy in 1997, he dreamed of scoring in a Premier League game involving the Magpies. Yesterday, he did, but not in the way he envisaged more than a decade ago. Having moved to Manchester via Middlesbrough, the Easington-born winger pounced to haunt the club that allowed him to slip through their fingers at the age of 12. Rarely can revenge have been so late coming. Johnson's 75th-minute strike settled a game that provided further evidence of Newcastle's competitiveness away from home, but ultimately resulted in nothing but frustration for the visitors. Hatem Ben Arfa's broken leg will have long-lasting repercussions the Frenchman was stretchered off in the opening ten minutes following a reckless challenge from Nigel de Jong but the effect of two poor decisions from referee Martin Atkinson was much more immediate. Atkinson awarded Manchester City a penalty in the first half even though Mike Williamson appeared to win the ball as he tackled Carlos Tevez, but denied Newcastle a spot kick of their own with 13 minutes left despite Joleon Lescott chopping down Shola Ameobi in the box. A tale of two potential penalties, with a corker of a strike from Jonas Gutierrez ultimately meaning little in between. In fairness, Johnson's winner was every bit as eye-catching as Gutierrez's goal, but the Magpies can still count themselves unlucky to have come away from Eastlands empty-handed. Having claimed four points from their previous two away games at Wolves and Everton, Newcastle once again held their own on the road. Indeed, with Cheik Tiote outstanding and Williamson performing impressively at centre-half, Chris Hughton's side made something of a mockery of City's status as title contenders. Hughton sprang a surprise before kick-off yesterday, dropping Andy Carroll to the bench, but the change he made in the opening ten minutes of the game was not of his own volition. Ben Arfa has made a considerable impact since moving from Marseilles in the closing stages of the transfer window, scoring a screamer at Everton and showing enough in his other two appearances to justify the high expectancy levels that accompanied him across the Channel. Sadly, those appearances are likely to be the last we see of him for quite some time. Scans will determine the full extent of the damage wrought by de Jong later today, but the Frenchman has sustained a broken leg that will sideline him for a number of months. The combustible de Jong was one of the chief culprits as Holland attempted to kick Spain off the field during the World Cup final, and yesterday's challenge was every bit as dangerous as anything he produced in South Africa. There was a hint of contact with the ball as he leapt towards Ben Arfa inside the City half, but the ferocity of his movement carried him into the lower half of the winger's leg, and his own leg quickly ensured Ben Arfa's was twisted to an unnatural angle. From the reaction of the players surrounding the incident, it was immediately clear something was seriously wrong. Incredibly, Atkinson did not even penalise de Jong, so perhaps it should have been no surprise when the referee made an equally errant decision ten minutes later. This time, instead of losing a man, Newcastle found themselves conceding the opener. Having initially found himself on the wrong side of Tevez as he galloped on to Jerome Boateng's through ball, Williamson did exceptionally well to make up ground on the striker and execute a perfectly-timed challenge, slightly outside the area, that stole the ball. That's one way of seeing it anyway. In Atkinson's opinion, the Newcastle defender committed enough of a foul to warrant a penalty, which Tevez duly slammed past Tim Krul. If de Jong's touch on the ball had been enough to keep him out of trouble, surely Williamson's was equally relevant at the other end of the field Trailing somewhat unfortunately, it would have been easy for Newcastle to collapse given the strength of City's unbeaten home record. Instead, the visitors displayed commendable spirit to haul themselves back into the game. Fabricio Coloccini forced a fine save from Joe Hart with a stinging half-volley, but it was his fellow Argentinian, Gutierrez, who beat the England goakeeper in the 24th minute. Restored to the starting line-up for the first time in three games, Gutierrez saw his initial shot blocked by Vincent Kompany, but reacted quickest to hammer the rebound into the roof of the net. For a player often accused of a lack of end product, it was an explosive way to answer his critics. Gutierrez's performance throughout was impressive, but it was at the back where the Magpies particularly caught the eye. Sol Campbell, who replaced the injured Coloccini to make his first Premier League appearance in Newcastle colours, was calm and assured, while both full-backs performed diligently to neuter the threat of James Milner and David Silva. Krul made decent saves either side of the interval to thwart Gareth Barry and Tevez, but for a side harbouring ambitions of winning the title, City's attacking was alarmingly short of invention. On the evidence of the opening 70 minutes, Roberto Mancini's side remain some way short of both their Mancunian rivals and Chelsea. Crucially, though, the size of their squad means they will always have options on the bench, and Mancini's decision to turn to one of his substitutes with 18 minutes left turned the game. Johnson had only been on the pitch for three minutes when he picked up a loose ball close to the right touchline. Jose Enrique allowed him to drift infield, and after shimmying this way and that, the North-Easterner drilled a precise low finish into the bottom left-hand corner of the net. Last season, he scored a cracker against Sunderland; this time it was Newcastle's turn to suffer. A second equaliser was always going to be a big ask, but it might have come had Atkinson penalised Lescott for a clear foul on Ameobi. With the officials seemingly incapable of doing anything right, however, play was waved on, yet the Magpies still created a golden opportunity with seven minutes left. Williamson rose to meet Joey Barton's corner from the right, but failed to find the target with his header.