Yohan Cabaye confident of top-four finish for Newcastle United

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YOHAN Cabaye is confident Newcastle United can keep their nerve in the Premier League run-in – and qualify for the Champions League.

Cabaye scored twice and set up another goal for Papiss Demba Cisse in Saturday’s win over Stoke City. The result moved the club into the top four of the Premier League with four games left to play.

Cabaye’s performance was superb. The 26-year-old’s disguised pass for Cisse’s goal was labelled “exquisite” by United manager Alan Pardew after the game, while his second goal in what was a sixth successive victory also won praise.

“Obviously, I’m happy with my goals and my pass for Papiss,” Cabaye said. “It was a difficult pass, but I like to be the man who provides deliveries and assists for my team-mates.

“I’m not a striker like Papiss or Demba, so my job is to help them score. I was lucky to score twice. I really enjoyed it.”

Asked if it was his best performance for Newcastle since his move from Lille last summer, Cabaye added: “This one or Manchester United was my best game. I enjoyed the games immensely. I’m happy because we got what we deserved, which was to win the game.

“At half-time we talked about the Wolves (when Newcastle lost a two-goal lead) game. We didn’t want to do the same thing.”

Cabaye left the field in the 61st minute with a slight knock.

However, Pardew expects him to be fit for Saturday’s game against relegation-threatened Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium. The fixture is followed by games against Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton.

While the club’s run-in looks tough, Newcastle have momentum behind them, and Cabaye – who played in the Champions League with Lille – isn’t fazed by the task ahead of them,

“Now this team has four games left, and each one is very important for us,” he said. “We aim to stay in the race for the Champions League.”

Stoke started brightly and they might have gone ahead with just 10 minutes gone.

England striker Peter Crouch, who had got little change out of his early duels with Mike Williamson, climbed high above the defender to head down Marc Wilson’s long ball, but Jonathan Walters volleyed high over.

But the game changed within four minutes as Pardew’s men flexed their muscles to go ahead.

More precisely, they showcased the individual talent of Frenchman Hatem Ben Arfa who, having spent most of his time until that point wide on the right, turned up on the left to bamboozle Wilson and chip an inviting cross to the far post.

Cisse’s eyes lit up as he powered a header back across keeper Asmir Begovic and waited for the net to bulge, but his disappointment at seeing the ball come back off the crossbar was short-lived as Cabaye converted the rebound.

Roles were reversed four minutes later as Stoke were carved wide open by the brilliance of the former Lille midfielder.

Cabaye collected Jonas Gutierrez’s pass in the middle of the field and, having spotted Cisse’s run, slid an inch-perfect ball into his path for the Senegal international to dispatch it left-footed past the helpless Begovic.

The Frenchman ran the game in front of the combative Tiote with Stoke threateningly sporadically from set-pieces, but without forcing keeper Tim Krul to make a save.

It seemed only a matter of time before Newcastle added to their lead, and it took a smart diving save by Begovic to deny full-back Davide Santon after he ran on to another Cabaye pass.

After the restart, Ben Arfa slipped effortlessly past Matthew Etherington on the right before floating another teasing cross to the far post, where leading scorer Demba Ba, without a goal since February 5, chose to chest it down rather than head directly at goal and saw Begovic make a vital block.

Ba and Cisse were proving too hot for Stoke to handle, and they combined to good effect once again with eight minutes of the half played for latter to find the back of the net from close range after Begovic had spilled the former’s shot, although from an offside position.

But they had to wait just four minutes longer for the third goal to arrive when, after Ben Arfa and Ba had probed at the visitors’ defence to little real effect, Cabaye took charge to curl an unstoppable shot across Begovic and into the bottom corner.

Pardew decided Cabaye’s work was done four minutes later when he replaced him with James Perch to a standing ovation from an appreciative crowd.

Begovic had to pull off fine saves to deny Tiote twice within the final four minutes and spare his side further punishment.

Newcastle: Krul, Simpson (Gosling 82), Williamson, Coloccini, Santon, Ben Arfa, Cabaye (Perch 60), Tiote, Gutierrez, Ba, Cisse (Shola Ameobi 69). Subs Not Used: Elliot, Ryan Taylor, Best, Ferguson. Goals: Cabaye 14, Cisse 18, Cabaye 57.

Stoke: Begovic, Shotton, Shawcross, Huth, Wilson, Wilkinson (Whitehead 32), Palacios (Jerome 55), Whelan, Etherington, Walters, Crouch. Subs Not Used: Sorensen, Jones, Fuller, Pennant, Upson. Booked: Palacios, Shawcross.

Att: 52,162 Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).