Newcastle United suffered their first defeat of 2012 as they fell at the hands of Fulham at Craven Cottage. The Geordies have rarely enjoyed life in the capital and despite Danny Guthrie’s opener just before half-time, Clint Dempsey’s hat-trick and penalties from Bobby Zamora and Danny Murphy sealed the win for the Cottagers.

With attention once again focussing on how the Magpies would cope without the influence of Cheick Tiote and Demba Ba –who are both on African Nations Cup duty – Alan Pardew handed Hatem Ben Arfa a rare start, with Guthrie again deputising for Tiote after his impressive performance against QPR last week.

Ben Arfa was central to all of Newcastle’s bright attacking play, with the France international looking likely to unlock the Fulham defence every time the ball fell to his feet. The former Marseille winger also tracked back impressively and helped out his team mates, something which will have pleased Alan Pardew immensely.

The visitors should have taken the lead deep into the first half, when Fabricio Coloccini found space in the box before striking a tame effort into the gloves of David Stockdale. The chance wasn’t to be rued for long though, as the Magpies soon got what they threatened.

Ben Arfa showed some of his new-found defensive ability when he robbed the equally defence-shy Bryan Ruiz and found Guthrie, who leathered a lethal left-foot strike past Stockdale to give Newcastle the lead.

With the Geordies pondering whether to sit on their one-goal lead as they did so well against QPR last week or go for more goals, Davide Santon made their minds up when he clumsily bundled over Damien Duff. Murphy stepped up and sent Krul sprawling the wrong way to level the contest, which was only just beginning to unravel.

Minutes after Murphy’s penalty, Bobby Zamora was brilliantly denied by Krul and Chris Baird – who was brought on for the extravagant Ruiz – lashed the rebound over the bar.

Newcastle tried to respond to the equaliser by pushing more men forward, but the pace of substitute Andy Johnson caught them on the counter attack. Johnson powered away after a clearance and played a simple pass to Zamora, who’s shot was saved but Clint Dempsey was waiting to apply an easy finish.

Fulham were now in the driving seat. The West London side started to find their groove and turn on some of the form that makes them one of the best home sides in the country and soon had a third. Dempsey was again the beneficiary of good work from his team-mates, when he converted Zamora’s pass to make it 3-1.

The trio of Dempsey, Johnson and Zamora had Newcastle’s defence shaking, and soon they shipped a fourth. This time it was Johnson’s direct approach which took him past Mike Williamson, only for Krul to bring down the former England striker and concede a second penalty. This time it was Zamora who took responsibility and smashed his kick straight down the middle.

The Geordies couldn’t respond and Alan Pardew made moves to signal his intentions were on damage limitation, rather than trying to mount a comeback, bringing on Ryan Taylor and James Perch into midfield.

However, he did leave Ben Arfa on and the former Marseille winger soon pulled a goal back for his side with a typically excellent individual effort. The fleet-footed winger cut inside nicely before smashing a shot past Stockdale, who arguably shouldn’t have been beaten at his near post.

But the hosts weren’t finished, and neither was Dempsey. The USA international soon latched onto Murphy’s long pass and beat Krul with ease, to become the first American to score a Premier League hat-trick.

The defeat leaves Newcastle in sixth place, with Arsenal able to put daylight between the sides if they should beat Man United tomorrow. On paper, this looks like a massive defeat, but it’s a fair while yet before Geordies around the country should start frantically searching for the panic button.


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