Newcastle 2 Blackburn 1

Hatem Ben Arfa

By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Club Reporter

At the Sports Direct Arena



Newcastle United 2 (Ben Arfa 70, Gutierrez 90)

Blackburn Rovers 1 (Goodwillie 35)



An injury-time strike from Jonas Gutierrez put Newcastle United into the fourth round of the FA Cup, with a 2-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers at the Sports Direct Arena.


The tie looked to be heading for a replay until the Argentine international popped up in the dying seconds with a superb individual goal.


Earlier, in a match which United dominated from start to finish, David Goodwillie had given Blackburn a shock lead when he stabbed home from close range ten minutes before half-time.


But a wonder goal from Hatem Ben Arfa drew the Magpies level after the break. The French international, making his first start since 3rd December, danced his way past a handful of challenges as he sped from the halfway line into the area, and then finished powerfully at the near post.


And Gutierrez had the last laugh with a brilliant chipped finish to put Newcastle in the hat for the next stage.


Leon Best drew a save out of Rovers keeper Mark Bunn inside the first minute. As the visitors failed to make any distance with a throw-in down their right, Newcastle won possession, and Best out-muscled Grant Hanley before seeing his shot tipped away by the stopper.


Ben Arfa - direct from a corner - and centre-back Mike Williamson also threatened as United looked for an early breakthrough, before Gutierrez forced Bunn into another fine stop on seven minutes.


It was a lively opening from the Magpies and they should have finally opened the scoring three minutes later. Ben Arfa strode unchallenged from the halfway line before slipping in Yohan Cabaye to his right.


The French international midfielder took a touch and, from eight yards out, every Toon fan was waiting for net to inevitably ripple, but he blazed well off target instead.


It took 17 minutes for Blackburn to carve out their first chance, which came courtesy of a free-kick conceded by Williamson for a foul on Goodwillie. Winger Morten Gamst Pedersen stepped up from 30 yards but came closer to finding the corner flag rather than Tim Krul's goal.


A long range effort from Ruben Rochina on 27 minutes was a little closer, but still failed to force Krul into action as the home side continued to dominate proceedings.


Gutierrez was inches away when he latched on to a headed clearance, cut inside and curled goalwards, but still the Rovers goal somehow remained in tact.


And the visitors took the lead completely against the run of play in the 35th minute. Pedersen's corner was met by Hanley, who had risen highest above the Newcastle defence.


His effort was on target, and Krul could only parry it on to the boot of Goodwillie, who wasn't going to miss from a yard out.


That was it for the first half, but minutes after the restart Steven Nzonzi tried his luck from 20 yards, only to fire off target, as Blackburn looked to double their advantage.


Newcastle hit back in search of an equaliser and Best thought he had it when excellent work from Ben Arfa unlocked the visiting defence. The Frenchman eventually side-footed right across the heart of the six yard box, and although Best connected, a fantastic last-ditch block from Martin Olsson prevented him from finding the back of the net.


United boss Alan Pardew introduced Shola Ameobi and Ryan Taylor from the bench, and the latter almost had an immediate impact - sending in a delightful cross which the unmarked Gutierrez somehow missed completely.


Ameobi then blazed wastefully into the Gallowgate End after Blackburn had given away possession on the edge of their own area


A couple of tame efforts from Rovers midfielder Simon Vukcevic aside, it was all Newcastle, but they were unable to turn their dominance into goals.


Never more so was it summed up than on 68 minutes when Taylor swung in a free-kick which Ameobi nodded across goal. Best tried to force it home at the far post, but the ball ended back across at Ameobi, who only had to touch home from a couple of yards. Somehow though Nzonzi got himself in the way to stop the striker's effort, and Blackburn cleared their lines.


The Magpies were crying out for a moment of magic and got that two minutes later courtesy of Ben Arfa. Picking up the ball almost on the halfway line, the French forward tricked his way past six challenges, striding into the box in the process before slamming home a strike into the roof of the net.


It was a goal of brilliance, and the home side quickly went in search of a second, with captain Fabricio Coloccini heading Taylor's corner narrowly over the top, before Williamson connected with another - sending his effort onto the crossbar.


With time running out, a move straight off the training pitch almost edged Newcastle in front. Taylor pinged a corner to the edge, where Cabaye met it on the volley, and although it wasn't the cleanest strike you'll ever see, Williamson prodded it on and almost stabbed it home, only to be denied on the goalline.


Ameobi lashed a drive just wide and United, before Gutierrez finally grabbed the win they deserved with the last kick of the game. The Argentine drove down the left flank, exchanged passes with Best and then lifted an inch-perfect finish over Bunn to seal the victory.



Newcastle United (4-4-1-1): Tim Krul; Danny Simpson (Ryan Taylor 59), Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Davide Santon; Gabriel Obertan (Shola Ameobi 56), Mehdi Abeid (Dan Gosling 86), Yohan Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez; Hatem Ben Arfa; Leon Best

Substitutes: Rob Elliot, James Perch, Haris Vuckic, Sammy Ameobi



Blackburn Rovers (4-4-1-1): Mark Bunn; Adam Henley, Grant Hanley, Gael Givet (c), Martin Olsson (Jason Lowe 75); Simon Vukcevic, Steven Nzonzi, Radosav Petrovic, Morten Gamst Pedersen; Ruben Rochina (Mauro Formica 56); David Goodwillie (Jordan Slew 82)

Substitutes: Jake Kean, Josh Morris, Nick Blackman, Yakubu



Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)



Attendance: 30,876 (357 Blackburn)

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