HATEM Ben Arfa is confident the best is yet to come from him at Newcastle United after finally putting his injury problems behind him.
The forward came off the bench to spark Alan Pardew’s side into life against Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium yesterday.
Ben Arfa opened the scoring in the 69th minute and shortly after the restart, Demba Ba sealed a 2-0 win over Owen Coyle’s struggling side.
The result ended a six-game run without a win for Newcastle, who face Liverpool on Friday night.
Ben Arfa has spent the season so far on the fringes of Pardew’s team.
But the 24-year-old – who believes he is close to full fitness after spending the bulk of last season recovering from a horrific double leg break – is now in the running to start at Anfield.
“I want to make something clear,” said Ben Arfa. “I’m nearly 100 per cent fit and if I play, I will show more to the fans and more to the club.
“I heard the fans singing my name before I came on. It feels really good. The news I can give them is that I’m now close to being 100 per cent fit.
“The game was very nice for me and I’m so happy to see us pick up three important points. Everything the team did at Bolton was brilliant.”
Ben Arfa’s goal came eight minutes after his introduction in place of Leon Best.
Ryan Taylor delivered a low cross and the France international – who had found a pocket of space inside the box – struck first time with his left foot.
“I was very happy to see the ball hit the back of the net,” he added. “The main thing for me was to see the fans reacting behind the goal.
“That was the most pleasing thing for me – it was a goal for not just me, but for them also. It was really comforting to see the fans applauding me.”
Ben Arfa and his team-mates are now looking to end the club’s long run without a win at Anfield, their last success at the stadium having come in 1994.
“It is very possible,” said Ben Arfa. “We feel we can travel there and get three points again.
“After getting three points at Bolton, we can optimise our performance.”
Neither goalkeeper was overly troubled in a disjointed opening half hour.
The best chance fell to Ryan Taylor, who forced a save from Jussi Jaaskelainen with a well-taken free kick 30 yards from goal.
Certainly, Best, preferred as a second striker to Ben Arfa and Shola Ameobi, struggled to make any impression with the service he was given.
At the other end, Krul did well to turn away a free-kick from Martin Petrov, and Best could not direct a Taylor corner goalward a couple of minutes before the break.
Newcastle had been dominant, but something had to change.
Within minutes of Ben Arfa coming on he was adding quality in the final third. His strike broke Bolton’s will and Newcastle’s second goal followed two minutes later.
Gabriel Obertan – who had earlier had his first shot on target this season – was found in space down the right, and he teased Paul Robinson before crossing low to Ba, who got the better of Gary Cahill and shot into the roof of the net.
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Boyata, Cahill, Knight, Robinson, Mark Davies, Reo-Coker, Muamba (Eagles 66), Petrov, Klasnic (Sanli 77), Ngog (Kevin Davies 76). Subs Not Used: Bogdan, Ricketts, Pratley, Wheater. Booked: Klasnic.
Newcastle: Krul, Simpson, Coloccini, Williamson, Ryan Taylor, Obertan (Shola Ameobi 84), Cabaye (Perch 88), Tiote, Gutierrez, Ba, Best (Ben Arfa 61). Subs Not Used: Elliot, Sammy Ameobi, Vuckic, Ferguson. Booked: Tiote. Goals: Ben Arfa 69, Ba 71.
Att: 26, 080 Ref: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).