Demba Ba’s strike gives Newcastle United victory

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DEMBA Ba has moved to draw a line under speculation about his Newcastle United future.

Ba scored the only goal of yesterday’s game against Norwich City at the Sports Direct Arena.

The future of the striker – who came off the bench to score twice in the 2-2 draw against Everton a week ago – had been the subject of intense discussion after his agent hinted he was becoming unsettled at the club.

Ba has another £7m release clause in his deal which could be activated in January.

Last week’s events concerned United’s hierarchy, who fear his name will again be touted around Europe ahead of the next transfer window.

While speculation about his future isn’t going to go away given the complexities of his much-discussed contract, Ba – who has apologised to manager Alan Pardew for his representative’s inflamatory comments – insists he’s only focused on adding to his four Premier League goals.

And for the moment he’s keen to let his feet do the talking.

“The best time to do your talking is during the 90 minutes,” Ba said.

“That’s exactly it – that is what football is about. It should be played on the pitch when it’s 11 versus 11.”

Ba beat John Ruddy in the 20th minute after the outstanding Hatem Ben Arfa found him with a perfectly-weighted pass forward.

“I’m delighted,” added Ba. “To have a win and a goal is great for me. It was a great pass from Hatem, and to get three points as well means you can’t ask for any more.”

In the end, Newcastle were fortunate to take all three points.

The fact they did was in large part to Hatem Ben Arfa, who was unplayable at times. His run and pass for Ba was the difference between the two teams on a chilly autumn afternoon.

Norwich had the better start, and Wes Hoolahan put a fifth-minute header wide.

After a lethargic start from Newcastle, Pardew – serving the second game of a two-match touchline ban from the directors’ box – made a tactical change, with James Perch moving to central midfield and Vurnon Anita switching to right-back.

However, the game was changed by one moment of brilliance of Ben Arfa.

With a turn of pace, the winger cut inside, gliding past his opponent as if he wasn’t there, and his pass found Ba, who let his feet do the talking.

Whenever he got the ball, Ben Arfa was seemingly unstoppable.

And it’s doubtful whether the 25-year-old, a threat in every Premier League game this season, has ever shown the level of consistency he has this term.

However, Newcastle didn’t have it all their own way, far from it, and Mike Williamson stopped a shot from Robert Snodgrass on the line.

Williamson also won a penalty in first-half injury-time, the defender having been bundled over by Steve Morison.

However, Papiss Cisse – who has struggled to find any kind of form this season – wasn’t the right man to take the spot kick. Stand-in captain Jonas Gutierrez had suggested to Ben Arfa – who held the ball – that Cisse should take the penalty to help him rebuild his confidence.

Had United had more than just a one-goal lead, it might have been a good idea, but that decision– and Cisse’s subsequent blast over the bar – ensured a nervy second half for home fans.

Goalkeeper Steve Harper, making his first appearance at home since April last year, saved well from Surman and substitute Simeon Jackson.

Newcastle: Harper, Perch, Williamson, Steven Taylor, Santon, Ben Arfa (Shola Ameobi 85), Anita (Tiote 76), Cabaye, Gutierrez, Cisse (Obertan 70), Ba. Subs Not Used: Elliot, Bigirimana, Sammy Ameobi, Tavernier. Booked: Tiote. Goals: Ba 19.

Norwich: Ruddy, Russell Martin, Barnett, Bassong (Turner 8), Garrido, Snodgrass, Howson, Johnson, Surman (Jackson 82), Hoolahan, Morison (Holt 70). Subs Not Used: Bunn, Pilkington, Ryan Bennett, Tettey. Booked: Howson.

Att: 49, 402 Ref: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire).