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Aug 18, 2012

Late penalty gives Newcastle win

Hatem Ben Arfa stroked home a late winner from the penalty spot as Alan Pardew's Newcastle rode its luck to get its new Barclays Premier League campaign off to a flying start with a 2-1 victory over Tottenham.

The Frenchman sent Brad Friedel the wrong way in the 80th minute having been hauled down by Rafael Van Der Vaart, restoring the Magpies' slender advantage after Spurs had pulled back to tie it four minutes earlier.

A low-key encounter had sprung into life in the 55th minute when Demba Ba fired his first goal since February to put the home side ahead before Jermain Defoe prodded a 76th minute equalizer at the second attempt.

The late drama proved too much for Pardew, who was sent to the stands by referee Martin Atkinson for pushing the linesman over a contentious decision shortly before Andre Villas-Boas' men had snatched their goal.

Pardew was quick to apologize after, though, admitting he had gone against the instructions he had given his players.

"It was ridiculous, I apologize publicly," he said. "I thought the ball was out, I shoved him. I have pleaded with my players to behave and follow the Olympic spirit. I can only apologize, I've been to see him and told him I didn't know what I was thinking."

The visitors had looked sharper in the first period and were desperately unlucky not to take some kind of lead into the half-time break after both Defoe and Gareth Bale clattered shots against the woodwork.

Defoe was sent through by a neat ball from Jake Livermore in the 33rd minute but fired against the base of Tim Krul's right-hand post, and three minutes later Bale headed powerfully against the bar from an Aaron Lennon cross.

While Pardew started with his new signings Vurnon Anita and Romain Amalfitano on the bench, Villas-Boas gave Gylfi Sigurdsson his debut and the ex-Swansea man was at the heart of most of the visitors' attacking moves.

The Icelander was a little unfortunate to be flagged offside in the eighth minute as Spurs started well, the striker getting on the end of Livermore's first ball into the box where he was thwarted by a brave challenge from Krul.

Steven Taylor swirled Newcastle's first chance high and wide from a left-wing set-piece, then the Magpies almost took a freak lead in the 22nd minute when Ba hit a weak, bobbling shot that took a touch off Papiss Cisse and almost deceived Brad Friedel.

Krul tipped a Sigurdsson free-kick round the post and Taylor had to be alert to head away the same player's resulting corner before Tottenham's best period saw its twice come agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock.

In the last action of the first half, the largely anonymous Cisse headed over, but Spurs were again on top early in the second. Magpies defender James Perch made a superb interception to stop Defoe latching onto Lennon's cross in front of goal.

But the home side snatched the lead against the run of play in the 55th minute when Danny Simpson's high ball into the box was only half headed clear by Kyle Walker, and Ba responded with a delicious curling shot high into the net from the corner of the box.

"It was a good game for us. It's our first game, we got the three points and it's always important to have a good start. It is always very good," Ba said. "It was very important to get a goal, but I am not running only for goals. The more I play well, the more the team wins. But, it's my first goal and I am very happy."

Spurs seemed a little clueless in response. Benoit Assou-Ekotto drilled a long-range effort which was parried by Krul, but the swing in momentum did not placate Pardew, who was sent to the stands on the hour for over-protesting a touchline incident.

Newcastle made their first change in the 70th minute. New boy Anita replaced Yohan Cabaye, but Spurs were almost level within a minute. Defoe bursted through the static rearguard and hit a low shot which was well parried by Krul.

Spurs grabbed their deserved equalizer in the 76th minute when Lennon crossed into a crowded box and Defoe wriggled free to fire past Krul at the second attempt after his initial header had been parried by the keeper.

But the point only lasted four minutes before van der Vaart was rightly penalized for tripping Ben Arfa in the left side of the box, and the Frenchman picked himself up to send Friedel the wrong way from the spot.

Villas-Boas felt his players deserved more from the game.

"We deserved more, played well, had the chances in the first half and pushed in the second," he said. "We deserved something extra for the effort we did and the game we played. We showed why we did so well last season and deserved more."

Jonas Gutierrez almost extended Newcastle's lead with an ambitious looping effort which Friedel tipped over the bar, while Spurs' increasingly desperate final forward forays lacked the sharpness to trouble Krul.

"Tottenham are a really good team and it was important to start with three points," Gutierrez told ESPN. "We are happy with the team and we had to win. We had a few chances, they did, and we took the opportunity to take three points."

Information from Press Association was used in this report.

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