Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba

By Kristan Heneage

Throughout the summer we are reviewing the 2012/13 campaign, a season of highs and lows which saw Newcastle thrive in Europe but struggle domestically. The first weekly instalment covers August and September, when hopes were high after the previous term's fifth-place finish in the Barclays Premier League...

 

August

After a pre-season tournament against some high calibre European opposition, trips to Holland, Hartlepool and Cardiff rounded off the Club's warm-up program at the start of August.

With Vurnon Anita added to the ranks from Ajax, the Club now had an Eredivisie champion and Dutch international to call upon. Anita would be given an early opportunity to impress his new public as a substitute when Tottenham Hotspur travelled to St. James' Park on the opening day of the season.

Under the guidance of former Chelsea manger Andre Vilas-Boas, his reign began in defeat as the hosts showed why they had finished fifth in the Premier League just a few months prior. A delightfully curled effort by Demba Ba was cancelled out by Jermain Defoe, before Hatem Ben Arfa forced Aaron Lennon into a clumsy challenge inside the box.

Dusting himself down, Ben Arfa calmly slotted the ball home and guaranteed Alan Pardew a winning start to his second season in charge. From there, the Europa League came calling with a Greek challenge in the shape of Atromitos. Falling behind early on, a delightful free-kick from Ryan Taylor earned the club a draw and a vital away goal in the baking Athens heat.

On a night that saw debuts for a trio of players, it was extra special for local lad Adam Campbell, who became the Club's youngest representative in Europe when he replaced Papiss Cisse with thirteen minutes to go. "I consciously knew that and I wanted him to have that tag because he has got a great future in front of him," Pardew said afterwards.

Unfortunately it was a case of capital punishment three days later when Newcastle visited Stamford Bridge and were shown why Chelsea had paid just under £30million to relocate Eden Hazard to the Barclays Premier League. A penalty from the diminutive Belgian was supplemented by a delightful assist for Fernando Torres to add a second on the stroke of half time.

Still acclimatising to the demands of domestic and continental competition, the Magpies welcomed Atromitos to Tyneside for the first European game at St. James' Park in five-and-a-half years. Admitting to taking a risk with his selection, Pardew's gamble paid off when Slovenian youngster Haris Vuckic fired in the game's only goal after 21 minutes.

The victory provided a nice end to the first month of the 2012/2013 season as the Club looked to build on the impressive work of their previous campaign under Pardew.

Goal of the month: Ryan Taylor v Atromitos

Hit from a considerable distance, Taylor proved just why his 'over the wall' nickname is an apt one. A real danger from set pieces, his absence this season has been notable after he picked up an unfortunate ligament injury during the return leg at St. James' Park.

 

September

Draws were plentiful in September as United battled on three fronts and played out four ties in six games.

The month began with a trio of former Magpies returning to the club. Shay Given, Stephen Ireland and Charles N'Zogbia were part of an Aston Villa side in desperate need of points after successive defeats in their opening two league fixtures.

Managed by former Champions League winner Paul Lambert, they took a surprise lead midway through the first half when Republic of Ireland international Ciaran Clark nodded the ball past Tim Krul. Eager to spare their blushes, Hatem Ben Arfa conjured up another moment of magic at the Gallowgate end to bring the sides level.

A crashing drive with his right foot had fans on their feet as Ben Arfa added to his impressive highlight reel and further proved why many consider him to be the most talented member of France's '1987 generation'. Afforded a short September rest, the Magpies returned to action at Goodison Park, where it took Leighton Baines just fifteen minutes to break the deadlock.

With Alan Pardew opting to start Demba Ba on the bench, the frontman was introduced early in the second half, making an instant impact. Netting an equaliser less than a minute after coming on, the goal was the club's 1000th in the Premier League, 19 years after Peter Atherton scored an own goal for Coventry to open the club's top flight account.

As Newcastle rode their luck, the Toffees were unfortunate not to retake the lead as first Victor Anichebe's header was adjudged not to have crossed the line before Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini was incorrectly flagged for offside.

That all seemed irrelevant however when, with two minutes remaining, Anichebe fired home what appeared to be the winning goal. Unwilling to admit defeat, the Magpies showed amazing resilience and once again bounced back as Shola Ameobi and substitute Ba combined wonderfully for the Senegalese international to grab both his and Newcastle's second of the evening.

With the group stages for the Europa League now drawn, Newcastle traveled to the island of Madeira to face C.S. Maritimo of Portugal. Unable to break down their opponents, a point and a healthy sun tan were all Newcastle departed with as Pedro Martins side highlighted the quality present in European competition.

That also began a run of four games in nine days, as a solitary Ba strike vanquished Norwich City at home three days later, before a midweek trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United in the Carling Cup. Once again opting to give youth a chance, Alan Pardew only narrowly missed out on victory as Papiss Cisse netted his first goal of the season in a 2-1 loss.

The month finished in Berkshire as an out-of-form Reading side played host to the Magpies. Understandably tired, three goals in four second half minutes posted the home side in front before Ba served as the Magpies' saviour once again, netting his sixth goal of a hectic early season and earning Newcastle a 2-2 draw.

Off the pitch, manager Pardew and his staff celebrated new eight-year deals with the Club, securing their futures at St. James' Park and ushering in a new chapter of stability for the Club.

Goal of the month: Hatem Ben Arfa v Aston Villa.

A ferocious strike, it's worth noting how impressive Villa keeper Brad Guzan had been in the 58 minutes prior to the goal. Struck with his supposed weaker right foot, the Frenchman's ability to produce magic with his feet was always likely to make him a crowd favourite.