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Ben Arfa avoids sleepless night


Hatem Ben Arfa, right, struck the winner for Newcastle

Hatem Ben Arfa, right, struck the winner for Newcastle

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Hatem Ben Arfa, right, struck the winner for Newcastle

Match-winner Hatem Ben Arfa admits he would have lost sleep had he not blasted Newcastle to a dramatic first Barclays Premier League victory of the season over Fulham.

The Frenchman's superb late intervention ensured the Magpies went into the break for international matches having ended a three-game wait for a three-point haul.

With the future of fellow midfielder Yohan Cabaye still uncertain and director of football Joe Kinnear's search for the new blood manager Alan Pardew desperately wants showing few signs of bearing fruit, not all the questions hanging over the club before kick-off have been answered.

But as the black and white faithful strapped themselves in for what could prove to a be a turbulent 48 hours, they were able to do so in the knowledge that they can still win matches and have genuine talent at their disposal.

Ben Arfa said: "If it had finished 0-0, I don't think we would have slept because we would have been very, very frustrated.

"But I think everyone in Newcastle is very happy because everyone was waiting for the first win. We won and I was very happy for that.

"I believed. We didn't have doubts because if you have doubts, your mood is down and you don't do things properly.

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"I tried, everybody tried and we showed personality because we tried to keep going. That's why we won, because we had good personality and until the end, we kept going and kept going."

It was a game Newcastle dominated without ever troubling keeper David Stockdale unduly until it entered its final phase.

Stockdale had made good, but not overly-taxing, saves from Mathieu Debuchy and Papiss Cisse before the break after seeing a goal-bound Fabricio Coloccini header blocked by team-mate Cisse during an early flurry.

But with the visitors defending stoutly and the Magpies struggling to match their perspiration with inspiration, the breakthrough proved elusive.

Ben Arfa was a case in point: he saw plenty of the ball, but too often took the wrong option, to the frustration of his manager, his team-mates and the fans alike.

But as the game wore on, it started to click for him and the Fulham goal began to live a charmed life.

With Cabaye having been introduced as a 65th-minute replacement for Vurnon Anita to far from universal acclaim, Pardew's men built up a momentum which was eventually to prove irresistible.

Cisse crashed a 78th-minute header across the bar from the France international's driven cross and substitute Yoan Gouffran really should have hit the target two minutes later after being picked out with a floated delivery.

Newcastle might have been caught by a sucker punch five minutes from time when Coloccini could only block a cross to substitute Adel Taarabt, but his effort was repelled by keeper Tim Krul, who had earlier pushed away a 67th-minute Bryan Ruiz free-kick.

But it was then that Ben Arfa took over, collecting substitute Loic Remy's crossfield ball on his chest, cutting inside John Arne Riise and Alex Kacaniklic and then with the minimum of back-lift, dispatching a left-foot drive high past the stranded Stockdale.

Pardew said: "He drove me mad. He made some unbelievably bad decisions.

"We had a little chat at half-time. He's a maverick player, you can't quite gauge him, but it was a great goal and the roof came off, and we won the game."

St James' Park erupted in relief as much as joy, but for no-one was the pleasure greater than the man who had secured victory after a frustrating afternoon against West Ham, a week earlier.

Ben Arfa said: "I am very happy, but the most important thing is the win. I am very happy because I worked hard this week on my shooting because last time against West Ham, I shot and every ball went into the sky.

"I repeat, repeat, repeat and I am happy because when you work, you see the results. It's good."

Ben Arfa and his team-mates, with or without Cabaye, will return to action at Aston Villa on September 14 knowing there is a long and potentially difficult road ahead, but with at least a measure of belief restored.

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